PETER CROUCH earned his side a point against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon in his landmark 600th club appearance.
The England international tapped home his sixth goal of the season after Jonathan Walters’ effort was diverted straight into his path in the 13th minute.
That goal came just 92 seconds after the Eagles had taken the lead courtesy of James McArthur’s superbly taken header.
Neither side did enough to claim maximum spoils with Yannick Bolasie going closest for the hosts whilst Crouch’s late acrobatic effort almost stole the points for Mark Hughes’ side.
The City boss was enforced into making one change to his starting line-up with the returning Marc Wilson lining up alongside skipper Ryan Shawcross with Marc Muniesa absent through injury.
Palace, displaying all of the traits embedded into them by former boss Tony Pulis, looked strong, determined and resilient during the initial exchanges, with the pace of Bolasie on the left hand side always likely to be their likely source of threat.
In fact, it was the trickery of the winger that culminated in the opening goal of the afternoon being scored, as he danced past Phil Bardsley and teed up McArthur, who met his ball with real aplomb and glanced his header over Asmir Begovic and into the far corner.
Almost instantaneously the Potters were back on level terms. The mesmeric Bojan left Brede Hangeland for dead on the right hand side of the penalty area, played a delicate ball across to Walters, whose effort at goal deflected to Crouch’s feet and he made no mistake from four yards.
Walters himself then did well to glide in between Hangeland and Scott Dann following more neat work from Bojan, only for his effort to drop straight into the palms of Julian Speroni.
Bolasie stung the fingertips of Begovic from distance, whilst he lashed a similar effort well over the bar as the home side looked to restore an advantage.
Wilfried Zaha, who is back in South London on loan from Manchester United, forced Bosnian stopper Begovic into another save down to his left with a powerful effort from an acute angle in what transpired to be the last meaningful effort of the half on the 30-minute mark.
The second half was a far more timid affair with neither of two teams able to dictate the play in the manner they would have liked.
Bojan drifted in and out of the game as he did his utmost to ignite a spark in the Palace penalty area, whilst Bolasie, who was a constant menace to the Stoke defence during the opening 45 minutes, was far less dangerous after the interval.
Hughes introduced Marko Arnautovic from the bench on the hour mark at the expense of Bojan, as the Welshman seeked fresh impetus in the final third, and to an extent the Austrian did that – with his unpredictability and burst of speed troubling the Palace backline.
He saw an effort diverted wide of goal during a spell of heavy Stoke pressure, whilst three successive corners failed to produce a sight at goal with Hangeland impeccable inside his own 6-yard box.
Begovic did have to be alert to deny substitute Jason Puncheon from range – diving across to his right to palm the forward’s goal-bound effort away from danger.
That was as close as either side came to winning the game, although Crouch did force a save from Speroni in stoppage time with an instinctive half-volley that would have nestled in the back of the net had the ‘keeper not been aware.