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17:11 19th February 2011

City 'Head' For Quarter Finals

STOKE CITY are 'heading' for the quarter finals of the FA Cup . . . after a commanding first half display swept aside Brighton & Hove Albion.

Loan signing John Carew, striker Jon Walters and captain Ryan Shawcross all scored with headers as City exposed Brighton's vulnerability in the air.

The fifth round tie was over as a contest by the interval as City moved through to the final eight of the competition for a second successive year.

Carew, leading scorer in last season's FA Cup, set the Potters on their way by flicking home a long throw=in from Rory Delap and Walters added a second midway through the half when he glanced home a Marc Wilson cross with his head.

Although winger Matthew Etherington had to limp off with a recurrence of his back injury, City gained the comfort of a three-goal cushion just before the break when Shawcross powered home a header from a Jermaine Pennant corner.

Tony Pulis' side now go into the hat for the quarter final draw which will take place at Wembley Stadium live on ITV on Sunday afternoon.

City were boosted by the fact that Etherington passed a fitness test on his back problem and took his place in a starting line-up that also included Sorensen and Whelan as Tony Pulis made three changes from the defeat at Birmingham last weekend.

Neither side posed much of a threat in the opening stages although Pennant produced a penetrating run down the right hand side only for Painter to block his cross and at the other end Bennett was looking lively for the visitors when they threatened.

Brighton's big test was how they would deal with the long throw-ins of Delap and there were one or two uneasy moments before City went in front.

The goal came in the 13th minute when Delap launched a throw into the box and Carew got the slightest of touches with his head to leave Brezovan punching at thin air, the ball finishing in the far corner of the net to break the deadlock.

Pugh was providing good support for Etherington on the overlap and he sent over a cross from the left to the far post which was headed wide by Pennant.

Brezovan was then called into action to produce a good save diving to his right when Walters rounded off a penetrating run with a firm shot.

And it was Walters who got himself on the scoresheet in the 22nd minute with a perfectly placed glancing header after Pennant had released Wilson on the overlap for the full back to send over a perfect cross for his international team-mate.

Walters went close to making it 3-0 moments later when Brezovan could only half punch clear a Pugh cross and the striker had his lob cleared off the line.

Brighton's first real attacking threat came on the half hour when Barnes forced his way down the left and after exchanging passes with Murray fired his shot over the bar from the edge of the box although Sorensen clearly had it covered.

Walters then headed wide at the far post when Pennant volleyed an Etherington cross from the left back across the face of goal in the 36th minute.

City suffered a setback moments later when Etherington was forced to limp off with a recurrence of his back problem and he was replaced by Fuller.

That meant Walters reverted to a position wide on the left with Fuller taking his place alongside Carew to spearhead the Potters' attack.

And Walters played a part in City's third goal just before the break, flicking on Pennant's corner at the near post for Shawcross to score with a firm header.

It was perhaps not surprising in the circumstances that the second half was something of an anti-climax with City sitting so comfortably in the tie.

In a rare moment of danger for the Brighton defence, Walters flicked on a free kick and Carew turned the ball past Brezovan from a tight angle, but unfortunately there was no-one in the middle to turn an inviting ball into an empty net.

That was the last action for Carew as he made way for Jones and his first involvement was to challenge for another Delap missile which gave the Brighton defence more headaches before they eventually scrambled it to safety.

The fact that Brighton boss Poyet withdrew his leading scorer Murray suggested that he was resigned to his side's fate even though they caused more problems for the City defence in the early stages of the second half.

There was a rare chance for the Seagulls to pull a goal back in the 78th minute when Bridcutt the ball through to Sandaza and it caused a moment of hesitation in Sorensen as he came out, but the 'keeper did get in a decisive block.

Sorensen was then called upon to get down smartly and smother a Baz shot after he was given too much space by Wilson as he cut in from the left, but at the other end Fuller went close to adding a fourth with a shot pushed away by Brezovan.

    Data provided by Press Association


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