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18:17 22nd May 2011

Disappointing End To Great Season

STOKE CITY'S disappointing end to an otherwise memorable season saw them surrender their excellent home record in 2011 as Wigan Athletic claimed the victory that secured their Premier League survival at the Britannia Stadium.

Although Tony Pulis' side dominated the first half and created a number of excellent chances to take control, Wigan made the most of their good fortune after the break and Hugo Rodallega headed the 78th minute winner to spark wild celebrations.

The defeat meant that City missed out on the chance to finish in the top half of the table and better last season's tally of 47 points, dropping to 13th place in the end as victories for Sunderland and Aston Villa meant they climbed above them, as indeed did Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion after they shared a thrilling 3-3 draw.

For Wigan though, there were scenes of joy as they extended their stay in the Premier League to seven years with Blackpool and Birmingham City the sides to go down as they suffered defeats in their matches at Manchester United and Tottenham.

Pulis was boosted by the return of a number of key figures, most notably wingers Pennant and Etherington, while Begovic, Delap and Jones were among the five changes.

The one notable absentee was Huth, who hadn't recovered from his knee injury, while Wigan included Sammon after his part in their 3-2 victory over West Ham United.

With the wind swirling around the Britannia Stadium, it was clear that the Potters could cause for problems with their set-pieces and the long throw-ins from Delap.

That was certainly the case in the early stages as Caldwell was forced to scramble the ball away when Shawcross managed to flick on a typically menacing throw-in.

City had the ball in the net when Jones met another long throw-in from Delap with a firm header but Walters was in an offside position as he flicked the ball past Al-Habsi.

There was another let off for Wigan in the 14th minute as Shawcross headed down another long throw from Delap and Jones had his low shot cleared off the line.

The next threat from City stemmed from a run down the left from Etherington and his cross broke to Whelan whose shot was blocked before Shawcross scooped his effort over the bar.

It seemed only a matter of time before the Potters broke the deadlock, but although Wigan were having to defend for long periods, they were managing to hold out.

Alcaraz was, however, booked for deliberate hand ball when Pennant tried to play the ball through to Walters, but the resulting free kick came to nothing.

Al-Habsi was then called upon to make two crucial saves as City pressed again for an opening goal, the Omani international pushing away a firm shot from Jones after he had linked up with Walters before bursting into a threatening position 15 yards out.

Walters was involved in the link-up play when the Potters pushed forward again, setting up a chance for Pennant whose shot was pushed away by the diving Al-Habsi.

City continued to search for an opener and when Etherington swung over a corner from the right hand side Shawcross snatched at a chance but mis-timed his shot.

The half-time interval brought confirmation for Wigan that a draw would not be enough, so they started the second half with more purpose and created their first real threat.

Shortly after the restart, N'Zogbia burst down the left hand side and unleashed a low shot in an attempt to beat Begovic at the near post, but it finished in the sidenetting.

City had strong claims for a penalty waved away when Alcaraz appeared to climb all over Jones as the pair challenged for a high ball played to the edge of the box.

It did, however, spark a period when the Potters built some renewed momentum and they were awarded a free kick when Pennant was bundled over.

Etherington swung the free kick into the box where Jones nipped in ahead of his marker to send a header drifting inches wide of the upright with Al-Habsi scrambling across his line.

Wigan made their first change when Cleverley was brought on to replace Sammon and he immediately had a chance to put the visitors in front with a shot on the left hand side of the box, but Begovic got down to smother his goalbound effort.

With their supporters chanting 'we are staying up', the visitors sensed their chance to claim the victory which would improve those chances.

Diame strode forward into space from midfield and unleashed a low drive which tested out Begovic's handling under pressure.

But the momentum was building as City failed to match their first half display and it was perhaps no surprise when the visitors went in front 12 minutes from time.

N'Zogbia set up the opportunity with a run down the left and his pinpoint cross found Rodallega rising to power his close range header past a helpless Begovic.

City were awarded a free kick when Pennant was brought down 25 yards out, but Whelan's curling effort shaved the bar with Al-Habsi well beaten.

The Potters kept pressing for an equaliser as the game moved into injury-time and Walters flicked on a long ball into the box, but Carew's touch wasn't firm enough to carry it past Al-Habsi who had been one of the outstanding performers for the visitors.

    Data provided by Press Association


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