STOKE CITY FC 2 ASTON VILLA 1
Have to confess that I approached the Brit with some trepidation on Monday night,for some reason feeling that the best we would do would be a draw.No points,second from bottom.The side that was selected had something of the safety first about it.
We started brightly enough with Kenwyne Jones looking a real handful on his home debut.A superb volley from distance had Friedel hurriedly palming the ball away...he should have done better when put clear by new boy Marc Wilso's sublime sliderule pass.Other chances from set pieces were headed over or around the woodwork.
Gradually Villa took hold of the match,although it was still something of a surprise when Downing headed them into the lead.
It did not look good as Villa missed out on two further golden opportunities to put the match beyond our reach.Ashley Young missed with an easy header, and a grubber cross again from Ashley Young fizzed along our goaline and away to safety....that would have been the missing Carew's tap in chance for his customary goal against us!!
THEN ........the man we thought would be missing the game because of close family bereavement appeared along the touchline....dressed for action.
I have been following Stoke for a long time,and I cannot think of a more spontaneously emotional moment than this one.A virtually full ground rising as one to clap and cheer the inestimable Tony Pulis!!
Uplifting,indeed.The whole atmosphere in the ground changed...a remarkable experience for those who were lucky enough to be there.
Substitutions followed ,the flow of the game changed,as The Mighty Potters ratcheted up the pressure on Villa.Stoke began to weave patterns of their own.Ten minutes from time Dean Whitehead did well to retain the ball on the Villa byline.His ball to Pennant was intelligently played across to Etherington. Interplay between Fuller and Etherington saw the latter put in a low trajectory cross which Kenwyne Jones netted with aplomb.
Fans around were settling for a draw,although the players clearly were not.In the last of the 3 minutes of added on time Jermaine Pennant won a free kick on the right.His cross arrowed to the heart of the Villa penalty area....eventually found its way to Matty Etherington....his left foot effort was diverted by Robert Huth beyond Friedel into the corner of the net.Cue serious celebration on and off the pitch......
The latest of late winners....season up and running....on what I can only describe as a very special night at the Brit!!