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18:28 15th January 2011

Stoke City 2 Bolton Wanderers 0

STOKE CITY needed a helping hand from Jussi Jaaskelainen to lay their Bolton Wanderers jinx well and truly to rest . . . although they fully deserved a victory that lifts them back into eighth place in the Barclays Premier League table.

Although Danny Higginbotham will claim the opening goal, it appeared to go in only after hitting the experienced Finnish international goalkeeper on the thigh as the Potters broke the deadlock in the 37th minute at the Britannia Stadium.

Then Jaskelainen got his left hand to Matty Etherington's 63rd minute penalty, only to watch it creep inside the post as City claimed their second successive home victory and condemned Bolton to a fifth consecutive away defeat.

Tony Pulis' side were well worth the comfortable 2-0 win that moves them level on points with Bolton in the top half of the Premier League table and now with 30 points moves them a significant step towards their initial target this season.

After suffering so many times over the past two seasons at the hands of late goals from Bolton, there was no repeat on this occasion.

Pulis made a number of changes to the side that drew with Cardiff City in the FA Cup, but Higginbotham, Wilson and Tuncay all retained their places in the starting line-up, while a number of players who were rested came back into the side.

Jones and Whitehead, two of those who were back from the start, linked up well in the early stages which led to City being awarded a free kick.

The referee ruled that Jones had been held as he laid the ball off to Whitehead who fired his shot high and wide from long range. Wilson tried to curl the resulting free kick around the wall, but it was charged down and the danger cleared by Bolton.

Tuncay then produced a penetrating run down the right hand side which took past two defenders but he was off balance as he tried a left foot shot which looped across to the far post where Jaaskelainen came off his line to collect comfortably.

The first real threat from Wanderers came when Ricketts delivered a cross from the right and Elmander tried a first time shot which sailed over.

The strong wind caused problems for both sides, but particularly for the Bolton defence as they were attempting to attack the ball when it was played through.

Etherington set Tuncay free on a burst down the left hand side, but his attempt to cross from the edge of the box was blocked by the outstretched Knight.

It was hardly surprising that Delap was causing problems with his long throw-ins and Huth headed one of them over the bar with Jaaskelainen in no man's land.

But the long-serving Finnish goalkeeper pulled off a stunning reflex save to keep his side on level terms in the 26th minute when Whitehead curled over a perfect cross from the right hand side and Jones met it firmly on the volley from 10 yards out.

Huth went close with another header from an Etherington corner, but City eventually went in front in the 37th minute from another set-piece.

Tuncay's corner swung in from the left found Higginbotham getting a decisive touch, but the ball crossed the line off Jaaskelainen's thigh. Fortunately, for the Potters, the alert assistant referee spotted that the ball had gone over the line in the scramble.

City were given an uneasy moment just before the half time interval when Bolton were awarded a free kick which Taylor, who has scored some crucial goals against the Potters recently, lined up to take, but his tame effort was blocked by the wall.

Bolton began the second half brightly and were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position when the referee ruled that Wilkinson had upended Taylor.

USA international Holden attempted to curl his free kick around the wall and in the swirling wind Begovic chose to punch it away moving to his left.

But the Potters hit back and when Delap took a quick throw-in, Tuncay wriggled his way into a good position but his left foot shot looped over the bar.

City stretched their lead in the 62nd minute from the penalty spot after Etherington when through on goal was brought down by Knight inside the box.

The winger had been set free by Tuncay's delightful ball and Knight must have been relieved when the referee showed him only a yellow card, although with Cahill coming across, it was probably the right decision in the circumstances.

Etherington picked himself up off the floor to take the spot kick and fired it to Jaasakelainen's left, the ball creeping in despite the 'keeper getting a hand to it.

City were by no means home and dry, a point which was emphasised moments later when Begovic made a fine save to keep out a low shot from Taylor.

Pulis made his first change when Whelan replaced Wilson, and they had appeals for another penalty rejected when Knight appeared to hold down Jones.

Tuncay was a constant menace to the Bolton defence and he headed narrowly wide after being picked out by a cross from Etherington on the right.

With the strong wind behind them, Delap was finding it difficult to get his long throws on the spot and one of them landed on the roof of the net.

But City kept the pressure on and the lively Tuncay cut in from the left to unleash a fierce drive, but could not get any curl on it and it flashed wide of the target.

    Data provided by Press Association


    The Potters played out four replays to finally beat Bury in the FA Cup in 1955