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16:52 16th March 2013

Local Derby Stalemate

STOKE CITY edged a point closer to Barclays Premier League safety after battling out a goalless draw with West Bromwich Albion at the Britannia Stadium.

After a game of few clearcut chances, the point was sufficient to lift City back into the top ten in the table and restore a ten point cushion over the bottom three.

Although Tony Pulis’ side exerted plenty of pressure in the second half in search of a winner, they had to wait until deep into injury-time for their best opportunity when substitute Kenwyne Jones fired a shot straight at Ben Foster from close range.

Neither Foster nor Asmir Begovic had much to do throughout the ninety minutes as City ended a run of three successive defeats with the goalless stalemate.

Pulis had made one change to the side beaten at Newcastle six days earlier as he welcomed back Etherington following his problem; the winger coming in to replace Wilkinson which meant Shotton reverted to right back and Cameron lined up on the left hand side.

It was the Baggies who made the brighter start and had appeals for a penalty waved away when Thomas was brought down right on the edge of the box by Shotton; referee Dean awarding a free kick instead which came to nothing as Shawcross cleared the danger.

The first threat from the Potters came as Etherington burst down the left and sent over a cross which headed well over the bar by the incoming Jerome.

City continued to probe for an opening, but Cameron was somewhat wayward with his delivery, first with an attempted cross and then with a shot from long range.

In a quiet passage of play, both sides struggled to carve out any clearcut openings and that was summed up by Etherington’s free kick floated straight into Foster’s arms.

However, City gained encouragement from a period of pressure which began with Jones scooping a clearance over his own bar after Crouch had flicked on a Shawcross ball.

Although the corner was headed over by Crouch, the Potters kept Albion on the backfoot and when Walters unleashed a long range shot, it deflected off Jacob, sending it looping over Foster, but he was relieved to see it fall past the outside of the post.

Having show more promise in the closing stages of the first period, City were forced to make a change at the break with Whelan, who had fallen awkwardly before the half-time whistle, making way for Whitehead in the central midfield role.

Etherington had a number of opportunities to conjure up an opening immediately after the restart, but with Crouch lurking on the edge of the six yard box, his final ball failed to pick out the England striker, much to the frustration of the supporters.

Albion had a great opportunity to break the deadlock when Ridgewell whipped a ball in from the left hand side and Lukaku seemed destined to score with his head, but he failed to make clean enough contact and Wilson was able to clear the danger.

There was a further scare for the Potters when Brunt mis-hit a free kick from 25 yards, but it broke for the unmarked Jones who delivered a low cross in the direction of the incoming Lukaku, but City managed to scramble it away for a corner.

Pulis made his second change of the afternoon when Jones was sent on as a straightforward replacement for Crouch to lead the attack.

The Potters launched another series of raids into Albion territory, but once again Etherington couldn’t find one of his own players with a cross and Foster came off his line to confidently claim a Whelan corner under pressure from Shawcross.

The final throw of the dice for City saw Adam sent on to replace Jerome who had been struggling for a few minutes after he fell awkwardly.

It was the Baggies, however, who had a glimmer of a chance as Mulumbu fired a 20-yard drive past the upright with Begovic hurrying across his line.

With the game drifting into the final stages with the stadium being deluged by a heavy downpour, City were awarded a free kick when Whitehead was clipped by Mulumbu as he attempted a shot from the edge of the box.

Adam struck the free kick low through the wall and it broke for Shawcross, but he was flagged offside as he swept his shot straight at Foster.

The Scottish international was given another chance from a similar distance moments later after Walter was impeded, but his shot hit the wall.

There was one final opportunity in injury-time when Cameron hoisted a high ball into the box where Jones chested it down and then attempted to meet it on the volley, but his effort was directed straight at Foster to leave the game goalless.







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