Stoke City FC 1 Manchester City 0
Wow another exciting,nailbiting afternoon at The Brit.Stoke made a very tentative start to the match,but just when they looked to be increasing in confidence against an average looking Manchester City side,Rory Delap-usually, seemingly, fairly amiable and easy going - had a rush of blood.Wright-Phillips tackled Etherington in a fashion that Delap took exception to.Delap tackled the Man City player from behind,not particularly heavily,but then followed up by kicking the ball at him from close range as he lay on the ground,leaving the ref with no option to the red card.
Wright-Phillips retaliated with his own kick but as with Ronaldo (kicking out at Wilkinson in the Boxing Day match)he stayed on the pitch.
Down to 10 men with almost an hour to play,you feared the worst.But this gutsy Stoke team got stuck in,their increasing experience at playing with 10 men shining through.
Magically they even conjured a goal in the final minute of added on time at the end of the half.Whelan chipped a short ball down the left side over the Man City defence.This set Etherington free,his precision cross being met at the far post by Beattie who headed powerfully downward inside keeper Hart's post and beyond his despairing dive.The wild celebrations were to be matched by those at the end of the game.
You knew that the second half would see a siege around the Stoke goal,but though Man City had their moments(Griffin was lucky not to concede a penalty at the death as he challenged Micah Richards,Bellamy shooting narrowly over the bar)they were not able to penetrate Stoke's stubborn rearguard in which Shawcross shone,ably assisted by Abdy Fay,Wilkinson,and stand in fullback Pugh.Whelan continues to grow into his midfield role at this level,Amdy Faye gave everything to the cause,very effective despite having been floored (and concussed?) by a heavy collision of heads.Etherington and Beattie are looking shrewd buys indeed!
A fabulously determined resilient team effort,supported and clearly lifted by tremendous sustained noise from the crowd,probably the best this season.Three points well deserved,which lifted us out of the bottom three,and overall a performance which will increase confidence as we move forward to claim the 16 points we'll need to stay up.