STOKE CITY overcame any potential banana skin by defeating League One side Doncaster Rovers in the Emirates FA Cup 3rd Round on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters ensured the Potters’ passage to the Fourth Round in a gritty tie at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Nathan Tyson’s first-half leveller made the cup tie more intriguing for the neutral as the Yorkshire club produced a vigilant effort in front of a strong 13,291 crowd.
Mark Hughes named a strong side with captain Ryan Shawcross and Philipp Wollscheid the only pair maintaining their place in the side that lost to Liverpool in the first leg of the Capital One Cup Semi-Final in midweek.
The Welshman made nine changes in all and handed goalkeeper Jakob Haugaard his competitive Club debut as Jack Butland was rested to the substitutes bench.
Crouch, Walters, Phil Bardsley, Joselu, Marc Wilson, Marco van Ginkel, Charlie Adam and Mame Diouf were all given the task to defuse any potential cup upset in South Yorkshire.
The tie remained relatively even for the opening periods with Doncaster slightly edging matters in front of a large home support, but despite their positive approach it was the Potters who took the lead on 15 minutes.
Joselu rolled his man after Aaron Taylor-Sinclair misjudged the bounce of a long ball. The Spaniard’s cross was met by Crouch, who neatly flicked his effort past Thorsten Stuckmann in the 6-yard box.
The hosts remained vigilant after going behind and after Andy Williams and Harry Middleton saw half-chances saved by Haugaard, got their equaliser just short of the 30-minute mark.
Tyson’s initial effort from inside the area was denied brilliantly by an off-balance Haugaard, but the Rovers forward was quickest to pounce on the rebound and bring the tie back to life.
Darren Ferguson’s side had the upper hand after getting back on level terms, putting pressure on the City goal with a number of corners and free-kicks that thankfully came to no fruition.
Wollscheid was arguably thankful to remain on the pitch after an altercation with Nathan Tyson, moments after the German defender had raised his hands to Williams.
City ended the half with Diouf producing a shot from the edge of the area that was matched by Stuckmann in the Rovers goal.
HT: Doncaster Rovers 1-1 Stoke City
The League One side came out the brighter at the start of the second half and had strong claims for a penalty after Diouf bundled Craig Alcock in the area following a cross from the left, with all protests waved away by referee Keith Stroud.
Diouf was involved in the Potters’ first attack of the half - an attack which should have given the lead once more.
The City forward saw his downward header toward the corner superbly thwarted by Stuckmann, before Crouch failed to convert the rebound with what was a simple tap-in, placing his effort over from no more than 6-yards.
Crouch’s blushes were spared seconds later when Walters found the top corner with a splendid effort just before the hour, placing his right-footed strike from 25-yards beyond reach of the diving Stuckmann.
The Republic of Ireland international almost grabbed his second on 73 minutes, meeting Adam’s superb fizzing cross, but tailed his effort wide at the back-post.
The hosts were relatively quiet after going behind, but were denied getting yet another leveller when Andy Butler’s header looped over Haugaard and back off the crossbar, much to the Danish shot-stoppers delight.
Tyson twice came close in the dying stages for Rovers, as did Butler who headed over from close range in the final minute of stoppage time.