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18:00 4th February 2012

Ten-Man City Stung By McLean

TEN-MAN Stoke City were frozen out by a James McLean solo effort as Sunderland continued their dramatic resurgence at snow-hitBritannia Stadium.

Young winger McLean fired home the only goal of a game ruined by the appalling conditions after City had seen Robert Huth sent off in the first half.

Huth was shown a red card for a lunge at David Meyler shortly before the interval and the Potters were always up against it from that point onwards.

Referee Martin Atkinson was the man who made the decision to give the German defender his marching orders, the second time in a match against Sunderland that he caused controversy with a decision after failing to spot Lee Cattermole's handling offence on the line at the Stadium of Light in last season's game in the North East.

Atkinson didn't appear to make any allowance for the snow-covered pitch after Huth seemed to slide on his backside and hardly made any contact with David Meyler, but the referee reached immediately for his red card.

Although City battled hard with ten men, they were undone by a moment of brilliance from McLean as he burst into the box to fire past Thomas Sorensen.

It was one of the rare moments in the game when neither side created a goalscoring opportunity as the snow got progressively worse.

With Etherington failing to recover from the virus which had laid him low for the past few days, Pulis opted to make two changes to the side beaten at Old Trafford with Delap and Jerome brought into the starting place for Palacios and Jones.

It was clear right from the outset that the conditions were going to make it extremely difficult for both sides as the snow got heavier.

It was fully thirteen minutes into the match before there was even the scent of a chance as City forced a corner which came to nothing as attempts to play it short resulted in Whelan's cross being charged down by a Sunderland defender.

Passes were going astray as the players struggled to come to terms with the conditions and it seemed that only a mistake would lead to an opening, which was the case when Sunderland threatened for the first time.

Sessegnon was the player to benefit from a slip by Delap and when he slid the ball to Gardner, the midfielder's shot was blocked.

Whelan was the next City player to find himself in difficulty and Sessegnon was there to pounce again before he shot flashed wide.

The Potters had struggled to make much headway up until this point, but Wilson found space on the overlap to whip over a cross from the left and Mignolet was forced to punch the ball away under pressure from the incoming Jerome.

There was a delay after that attack as Jerome received treatment for a knock and he eventually had to limp off to be replaced by Fuller.

The first shot at goal of any note came with five minutes to go in the first half when Walters cut in from the left and tried his luck from long range, but although it gathered pace off the snow covered surface, Mignolet got down to save.

City suffered a big setback, however, just before the break when Huth, who had over-run the ball, slid in to challenge Meyler and was immediately shown a red card by referee Atkinson who must have deemed it to be a two-footed challenge.

Consequently, Pulis had to make an immediate change when Woodgate was brought on to plug the defensive gap at the expense of Pennant.

The half-time interval saw groundstaff working hard to clear the pitch, but as the second half began, the snow was getting heavier.

The Potters made a promising start to the second half and pushed Sunderland back as they looked to try and overcome the fact they were a man down.

For all their endeavours, Mignolet's only moment of danger came when he had to come off his line to claim a corner under pressure from Crouch.

Although City had adjusted well to the fact that they were down to ten men at the start of the second half, it was Sunderland who took the lead on the hour mark when McLean burst into the box past two defenders and buried a low shot past Sorensen.

The Potters needed a swift response in the circumstances and it came three minutes later when Fuller held the ball up well inside the box and eventually laid off a pass to Delap whose fierce drive flashed inches over the bar.

It was getting harder to see the ball against the white backdrop and there was a good covering of snow down the West Stand side.

The crowd did their best to try and lift the side, but although they had plenty of possession, they found it difficult to create any clearcut chances.

City kept pressing, however, and there was a glimmer of hope when the ball was swung out to Fuller on the left. The Jamaican cut inside onto his right foot and curled a low shot towards the far corner which Mignolet smothered diving to his left.

There was some encouragement when the Potters forced a throw-in and a corner in quick succession, but Wilson headed Whelan's cross wide.

The officials added on only three minutes at the end, but City couldn't muster another chance as Sunderland hung on to claim all three points.

    Data provided by Press Association


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