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16:45 19th October 2013

Potters Held By Baggies

STOKE CITY ended a run of three successive defeats by claiming a point against in-form West Bromwich Albion at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

Neither side could have any complaints about the outcome truth be told, with both being guilty of spurning opportunities during a tight affair.

Stephen Ireland had the hosts best chance during the second half, whilst Asmir Begovic proved to be the hero of the first half, denying both Stephane Sessegnon and Morgan Amalfitano with superb saves, before making the most important save in the last minute to thwart Sessegnon for a second time.

Charlie Adam very nearly won it for the Potters late in the second half with an opportunist effort from the half way line, although Boaz Myhill tracked back to tip his outrageous effort over the bar.

Mark Hughes made three changes to his starting eleven prior to kick-off as he looked to end a run of three consecutive defeats against the in-form Baggies.

Oussama Assaidi was handed his first Premier League league start, replacing Matthew Etherington on the left flank, whilst Andy Wilkinson also made his first league start - coming in at the expense of the injured Geoff Cameron.

The final change saw Scotland international Adam return to the starting line-up, with Marc Wilson the player to make way for his inclusion.

The contrasting recent fortunes of each of the sides was evident during he opening 15 minutes, as the visitors looked the brighter and morel likely to forge an early breakthrough.

Had it not been for the impressive Begovic, who earlier in the week helped Bosnia reach the World Cup Finals, Albion would have been ahead on the quarter hour mark.

Sessegnon danced his way through the Potters backline after neatly controlling Claudio Yacob's neat through ball, and fired the ball towards the bottom corner of the net, only for Begovic to deny him with a superb save down to his left.

At the other end Jonathan Walters saw a rasping effort saved well by Boaz Myhill following good work from Ireland, before Begovic again came to Stoke's rescue by denying Morgan Amalfitano from close range.

The windy conditions were undoubtedly making it difficult out on the pitch, as was illustrated by each of the teams, who struggled to gain a real foothold on proceedings.

Arnautovic was showing signs of brilliance with his close control and dangerous set-pieces, but even they were failing to trouble to Albion rearguard, and on the one occasion that it did Adam was only able to head over from 8-yards.

As the first half drew towards its conclusion the Potters started to influence things more, with the man of the match Arnautovic being at the heart beat of every dangerous surge forward.

The Austrian's quick free-kick freed Ireland down the right hand side of the 18-yard box, although his effort was tame and Myhill was able to palm his effort around the post, whilst he fired a volley over the bar from 20-yards after Assaidi picked him out.

More incisive play gave Nzonzi a sight at goal in stoppage time, but he opted to place his effort, rather than drill it, and it ended up drifting harmlessly wide of goal.

The break came at the wrong time for the Potters as it broke up the momentum that they were building, thus allowing the visitors an opportunity to regroup and stabilise themselves during the initial stages of the second half.

Adam was fortunate to escape unpunished to a trip on Youssouf Mululmbu inside his own penalty area five minutes after the restart, much to the disgruntlement of the visiting supporters.

Hughes introduced Kenwyne Jones from the bench shortly before the hour mark to reinvigorate his side, and it initially appeared to have worked as his arrival sparked a spell of heavy pressure on the Baggies goal.

Ireland spurned the hosts best opportunity from 10-yards after firing Arnautovic's delightful centre over the bar, whilst he then curled an effort straight into the hands of Myhill after some lacklustre Albion defending.

With the visitors gradually getting themselves back into contention and asserting pressure upon Shawcross and Huth, they were very nearly stunned when Adam spotted Myhill off his line and attempted an audacious effort from inside his own half, which was superbly tipped over by the 'keeper.

Chances were few and far between during the course of the remaining 20 minutes, although Begovic came to his side's rescue again in stoppage time with a brilliant save to deny Sessegnon, who had walked through the City back line.


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