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OFFICIAL club website of stoke city

A Predictable Draw


STOKE CITY battled out a goalless stalemate with fellow draw specialists Sunderland in a Barclays Premier League match of few chances at the Britannia Stadium.

It was perhaps a predictable outcome in the circumstances as both sides took a point from what was their sixth draw of the Premier League campaign already.

The result was frustrating for Tony Pulis' side, but that was overshadowed by a serious injury suffered by Marc Wilson shortly after the half time interval.

Wilson had to be stretchered off after going down in a challenge when he stretched to try and win possession, raising the prospect of him facing a long lay-off.

There were moments of threat for either Asmir Begovic and his opposite number Simon Mignolet, although the Sunderland 'keeper had one or two anxious moments late on, having to make a couple of saves to deny central defender Robert Huth.

While Pulis stuck with an unchanged line-up from last weekend's defeat at Manchester United, there was a break from tradition in that City found themselves attacking the Boothen End in the first half into the face of a bitterly cold wind.

Nevertheless, the conditions were infinitely better than the heavy snow in which the game was played last season in February and the Potters made a promising start by enjoying plenty of possession and pressing Sunderland back.

While City did plenty of probing, their final ball often let them down and the Black Cats were abloe to repel anything that was thrown at them.

There was glimmer of a chance came when Wilson's astute pass released Kightly down the left hand side who had time to measure his cross to the far post, but it was in front of Crouch who was unable make up the ground to get in a header.

The first threat from Sunderland came when Johnson found space to latch onto a long ball forward and tried his luck from long range, the 25-yard shot taking a deflection off Huth and flashed wide of the target at Begovic's near post.

City went their closest to breaking the deadlock in the 21st minute from a free kick after Rose had been booked for a foul on Cameron.

Adam delivered a dangerous ball into the six yard box where Huth was only inches away from getting a decisive touch and after Mignolet had pushed the ball out, Whitehead had his shot on the follow-up charged down.

The Potters sustained the pressure on Sunderland and Nzoni chipped the ball into the box for Shawcross to volley into the arms of Mignolet, the City captain failing to make clean enough contact to really trouble the 'keeper.

There was further encouragement for City when Kightly burst down the left hand side before cutting in onto his right foot to unleash a curling shot aimed for the far corner, but Cuellar read the situation well and headed away to safety.

The resulting corner caused more problems for the visitors as Adam swung it into the middle where Mignolet, under severe pressure from Shawcross, managed to turn it away for a second successive corner which came to nothing.

The half ended in much the same vein that it had started with both sides showing plenty of endeavour without much to show for it.

There was a long delay in the action right at the start of the second half when Wilson went down injured after stretching for the ball and it soon became clear as he received treatment that a stretcher was required.

Wilkinson came on in his place and slotted into the left back role as the serious nature of the injury to Wilson creating a subdued atmosphere.

But the volume increased again when Kightly managed to get a cross over from a tight angle on the left but Crouch couldn't get his head to it and Cuellar cleared, although he took a nasty knock in the face in the process.

While Cuellar was being patched up on the touchline, City tried to take advantage but Crouch's flick on to Walters was intercepted by Rose whose attempted clearance eventually found its way back to the alert Mignolet.

As the game moved into its final quarter, some excellent work from Cameron burst down the right onto Walters' pass saw him drag the ball back to Adam ten yards out who stabbed his shot into the arms of Sunderland's 'keeper.

City made their second change when Etherington was introduced in place of Walters and he was soon in the thick of the action with a penetrating run, but his attempt to thread a pass through to Kightly was blocked by Rose.

There was a big scare for the Potters when Wilkinson got caught in possession in trying to deal with a Sunderland counter attack and Sessegnon took advantage to set up Fletcher on the edge of the box whose shot was charged down by some desperate defending by Whitehead and Shawcross when a goal seemed on the cards.

With the game drifting towards a goalless draw, Pulis turned to Owen who was brought on with twelve minutes remaining in place of Adam.

City were awarded a free kick when Wilkinson was brought down in full flight by Gardner and when Kightly swung the ball into the area, Huth rose to meet it, but couldn't get sufficient power in his header to trouble Mignolet.

After Etherington had a shot blocked by Cuellar, the crowd were lifted when the board went up indicating eight minutes of injury time.

Crouch earned the Potters a corner when he tried to wriggle his way into a shooting position and Etherington's corner found Huth unmarked but he was frustrated when his firm header was comfortably claimed by Mignolet.

City sustained the pressure though and Kightly was unfortunate to drag his shot wide of the near post after he had weaved his way past Bardsley before it took a clearance from Cuellar to prevent Owen getting his head to a Kightly cross.

That was the last of the chances, even though the Potters tried in vain to break down Sunderland's resilient defending in the final minutes.

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