STOKE CITY FC 3 FULHAM 2
The country crippled by snowstorms,freezing temperatures,gridlocked roads,schools and factories closed,grit and salt running out....and still SPORTING OASIS STOKE SHRUGGED IT ALL OFF!!
Lunchtime saw the postponement of the Blackburn v Aston Villa League Cup Semi-Final,so Sky switched its live coverage to Brit.What a bonus for stranded Stokies everyhere.
The only question then - as heavy snow fell outside the window in deepest Cheshire - would the match survive the worst the elements could throw at it?
There was no doubting the club's determination to get this match played.Messageboard reports from fans working near the ground testified to the mammoth effort the club was making.Not to do a Wigan,approach roads and pavements were kept clear, gritted and salted.Inside the ground stewards were attending to safety issues,clearing the snow,salting.The ground staff busy keeping the pitch in condition.
Brilliant effort from everyone.Both managers wanted to play,the ref's initial doubts were overcome.7.30pm and Sky's Jeff Stelling said it for all of us...amazing performance to get the game on at all,couldn't quite believe our luck.Beautiful green playing surface,with snow still swirling about as the match kicked off.
Stoke had the ball in the Fulham net in less than two minutes.....Etherington's effort disallowed for offside.After a brief spell of Fulham pressure,Stoke took over,got the press on the visitors,and almost unbelieveably powered to a 3-0 lead.The impressive Etherington had a hand in all three goals scored by Tuncay,Abdy Faye,and Mama Sidibe.
Tuncay went off injured,and his replacement Ricardo Fuller was unlucky not to net another two goals.
Halftime 3-0 up, Fulham blown away,still SNOWING and FREEZING.....those of us with long 'STOKE' memories REMEMBERED.... Oldham,I think it was,in the Cup at The Victoria ground...Stoke 2-0 up at halftime.....match ABANDONED.It couldn't happen again could it?
Things seemed different from the start of the second half.Our heroes seemed to have gone into a state of semi-hibernation...Fulham began to threaten.You feared the worst,Wolves style.A major deflection off Ryan Shawcross gave them their first goal and hope.The second from Dempsey was a beautifully struck long range shot which dipped over Simonsen into the net giving The Cottagers (?)belief.
Heart in mouth time,serious increase in blood pressure,sweating (although probably not amongst those at the ground itself I would suspect)....could we hold out with all the momentum going Fulham's way?
That we did was down to that magical ingredient...LUCK.Ref Clattenburg missed a penalty area handball,of the sort that we've seen given before now.Fulham shot wide...
But we got there.A vital win,up to 10th in the table,opening a 6 point gap from the drop zone.