STOKE CITY FC 3 WEST BROMWICH ALBION 1
Ricardo Fuller Hat-trick Hero...Man of The Match...the sponsors had no option!
Fourth placed Stoke outplayed leaders WBA-no bad side in most people's estimation - at The Britannia Stadium this afternoon.They managed another brilliant team performance,with striker Ricardo Fuller topping it off with a splendid hat-trick of goals.
The first half was virtually all Stoke with front runners Sidibe and Fuller creating havoc amongst the visiting defence.Crucially Fuller bagged his first goal after only 5 minutes through on the keeper from a Sidibe flick to put the visitors on the back foot.Stoke could have gone even further ahead as the half progressed,but on 38minutes Fuller netted again,lurking at the edge of the 6 yard box to left of goal the ball reached him from Lawrence's right side free kick and he drove it unerringly across the goalkeeper and into the righthand corner of the net.
WBA, encouraged by their 2500 away following,and two attacking substitutions -Kevin Phillips and the giant Ishmael Miller ( on loan from Manchester City),were much more in evidence in the second half bringing more pressure to bear on the Stoke goal where,apart from one slip up Simonsen was in fine form.
A little against the run of play in the 66th minute, Ricardo Fuller was set free on the left.He faced a defender,whom he first turned inside out,then accelerated past into the penalty area, before shooting -it seemed through the legs of another defender - across the diving keeper and into the right corner of the net.A goal of the highest skill and quality,which,had it been a Premiership match, would have had the TV pundits purring for weeks.
West Brom's goal on 72 minutes was nodded in from close range by Bednar. After a defensive header out by Stoke was lobbed back into the goalmouth,Bednar was first to the ball as Simonsen changed his mind about coming out to claim.
Stoke's win,their seventh consecutive match undefeated,leaves them still in 4th place in the table,but now only 1 point off the automatic promotion places,or if you are really ambitious three points from the top!
Don't often have the opportunity to say something constructve about the referee,but today Mr Halsey put in a sensible, intelligent, unfussy performance......it was more than mildly amusing when Russell Hoult dived on top of him as he was doing his pre-match warmup exercises lying on the grass in front of The Boothen... the measure of the man was in the good humoured exchanges that followed between them!