Stoke came out of this 3rd Round FA Cup match knowing that they could have and should have won, especially on their showing in the second half.The whole match was engrossing, and certainly on this evidence there is no doubt in my mind that if promotion comes Stoke's way this season Manager Pulis,suitably backed financially,is capable of putting together a team which would be able to hold its own in the Premiership.
Newcastle had more of the class players,more with a better first touch,but especially for parts of the second half,they didn't seem to fancy the battle in the rain as much as the Stoke team.
Not much was seen throughout of the attacking pairing of Michael Owen and Viduka,largely due to the close and effective defensive attentions of young Shawcross (watching Sir Alex Ferguson will have been impressed - apart from one misjudgment his performance was superb) and Leon Cort.Duff threatened danger down the right wing to start with,but was then largely snuffed out by the tenacious Dickinson.Dickinson even found time to leave his entirely legal mark elsewhere knocking Rozehnal backwards in a crunching tackle.
The Stoke midfield was busy, with Man of the Match Pugh partnering Captain Eustace.They managed to match the Butt Smith combination for the visitors.Lawrence and Cresswell,particularly the former,were not as much in evidence as they have been in recent weeks going forward,but provided admirable defensive support to the back four.
In the first half Stoke seemed to be affording Newcastle more respect than they deserved,because when they began to apply concerted pressure in the middle part of the second half especially the visitors defence began to creak.To be fair Faye played a major part in keeping Stoke at bay.Stoke's purple patch coincided with the replacement of Mama Sidibe (he didn't seem to be too happy!).Parkin's entry on 66 minutes galvanised the team.
Immediately Parkin put Fuller through...he took out the keeper as he cut the ball back from the byline in his customary fashion.From close range Parkin connected but unfortunately his effort seemed to strike the body of Taylor/Faye (not sure which!)who had backtracked and seemed to be sitting on their backsides on the goaline.The ball rebounded to safety.
Shortly afterwards Parkin had a header saved by Given,and - seriously contentious - Taylor put his fist to a Fuller drive which was destined for the bottom left corner of the net,deflecting the ball narrowly wide.A good shout for a penalty in my book!
Whilst we didn't get as close again it has to be said that on the second half showing alone Stoke deserved a win.
What about the crowd? Not a sell out,just a touch under 23,000,but what an atmosphere...THE BRIT ROCKED! Superb support for the lads from beginning to end!
LINK : BBC Match Report,includes video highlights
The replay on Wednesday week now has the added spice of a 4th Round tie against Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium.