It couldn’t get much closer. With one game to play Stoke and Southampton are 7th and 6th respectively, both with a game to play next Sunday, both on 72 points, both with a +21 goal difference, the Saints taking the last playoff position thanks to scoring more goals.
In this game Stoke were well below par in a nervy first half. A lively Colchester team, aided by a dodgy referee, went into halftime one goal up. Colchester had one or two good chances but failed to convert. Hendrie missed in front of goal for Stoke. Iwelumo – who got a deserved friendly response from the home fans all afternoon- took and scored Colchester’s penalty expertly, driving the ball low into the right corner of Simonsen’s net, the goalie, despite diving the right way, well beaten.
Should it have been a penalty? No! Should Stoke have had a penalty when Darel Russell was chopped down at the other end of the pitch? Emphatically yes!! Mysteriously the ref awarded the free kick to Colchester.
Stoke were unrecognisable in the second half. It must have been some team talk by the manager at half time because they came out and simply overpowered Colchester. The visitors were hit by the now familiar 3 goal blitz, scorers in a very short space of time being Russell - with a downward header after Sidibe headed back from a Lawrence cross - ( pictured below), Sidibe, and Higginbottom.
Sidibe’s strike (below right) from outside the box was the best of the bunch. Played through by Lawrence he cut in powerfully from the left and shot across the goalkeeper into the right corner of the net. He’s done this twice now in recent weeks….now he’s got the idea and the confidence to carry it out maybe he will more regularly add goals to his otherwise excellent all round game.
Having achieved a 2 goal cushion with captain Higginbottom's headed goal (left) Stoke did not really push forward for additional goals in the latter part of the game, even against a Colchester side reduced to 10 men by the sending off of Barker, who had been involved in a series of skirmishes with Hendrie.
Stoke were comfortable at the end. So were the fans, but fingernails could take a serious bashing next weekend ! Whether we like it or not making the playoffs next week is not entirely in our own hands, but there are so many fine permutations that could see us make it. Ideally we need to win at QPR and see what others around us do. There are even possible scenarios where a draw would be enough! Cross everything!!!
Russell 53 Sidibe 57 Higginbotham 62
StokeTeam: Simonsen,Hoefkens,Fortune ,Higginbotham ,Griffin ,Lawrence (Eustace ,84 ) ,Russell ,Diao (Martin ,89 ) ,Hendrie ,Fuller (Pericard ,88 ) ,Sidibe
Subs not used: Hoult,Zakuani,