STOKE CITY brought the curtain down on 2012 in exemplary fashion by remaining unbeaten throughout December and ending the search for a first away win of the Premier League campaign.
Dean Whitehead’s first League goal in almost three years broke the away day duck as he stepped off the bench to gun down high-flying West Brom at The Hawthorns.
Whitehead rifled home the only goal of the game 15 minutes from time to give us a victory we not only thoroughly deserved but which could have been more emphatic after Kenwyne Jones had gone agonisingly close to finding the target early on.
We kept our eighth clean sheet in 16 Premier League games when they returned to the West Midlands to face Aston Villa. The game finished goalless as neither side created any clearcut opportunities of note.
Jones ended his 16-month wait for a Premier League goal as we then came from behind to claim a home point against Everton.
He rose to turn in a Ryan Shawcross centre early in the second half to make it 1-1 and cancel out an own goal by the City skipper, who had unwittingly glanced a speculative shot from Steven Pienaar past Asmir Begovic.
We had chances to win the game after Jones’ leveller with substitutes Cameron Jerome and Peter Crouch going close in a titanic scramble in the closing stages of the game.
Another admirable defensive display was produced to hold Tottenham to a goalless draw at White Hart Lane before turning on the style against Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium on Boxing Day.
Jonathan Walters scored twice as we romped to a 3-1 win and the occasion was understandably extra special for the Republic of Ireland international, who was an Everton fan as a youngster.
Steven Gerrard fired Liverpool into a second minute lead from the penalty spot, but we were level just moments later as Walters grabbed his first of the game.
Jones, revitalised after ending his top-flight goal drought, edged us in front in the twelfth minute of a frenetic start to the game before Walters set the seal on a memorable victory early in the second half, smartly hooking home Jones’ flick-on.
We also scored three times in rounding off the year with a visit from Southampton, but we had to settle for a point, thanks to a 90th minute 25-yard thunderbolt from substitute Cameron Jerome.
Southampton had appeared to be on course for maximum points as they exposed defensive uncertainty caused by the suspensions being served by Shawcross and Geoff Cameron, all of which meant an Andy Wilkinson own goal nine minutes before half-time carried them into a 3-1 lead.
Jones had cancelled out Rickie Lambert’s opener with a clever first-time finish, but a Jay Rodriguez strike and Wilkinson’s own goal left City with a mountain to climb.
Matthew Upson gave us a foothold when he reduced the deficit midway through the second half, but all hope seemed lost when referee Mark Clattenburg controversially sent off Steven Nzonzi 19 minutes from time. Fortunately, Jerome had other ideas.
With three home matches in the final two weeks of another memorable year, supporters had plenty to read about in editions of a Matchday Magazine that scooped a top award when it was named as the Independent View Programme of the Year for 2012.