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Clarets Peg Back City

Badou Ndiaye

STOKE CITY’S Premier League survival hopes are hanging by a thread after the Potters once more relinquished a lead, and an opportunity to edge closer to safety, on Sunday afternoon.

Paul Lambert’s men came into the fixture knowing victory was almost a must if they were to keep the Club’s destiny within their own hands, especially having suffered last minute heartbreak against West Ham United earlier in the week.

Everything appeared to be going to plan when Badou Ndiaye netted his first goal since joining in January just 10 minutes in - flashing a superb effort into the bottom corner of the net after his clever footwork manoeuvred space for himself on the ‘D’.

The hosts were understandably buoyed by their early breakthrough, and looked to turn the screw on their high-flying opponents, with Diouf and the recalled Peter Crouch both going agonisingly close to making contact with Xherdan Shaqiri’s delightful ball across the penalty box.

At the other end, Jack Butland showcased why he is a contender to start for England in this summer’s World Cup Finals with a couple of impressive saves to thwart Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood from close range.

As the end of the first-half drew near, bursting run forward from Moritz Bauer culminated in the Austrian delivering an inch-perfect delivery to the unmarked Diouf, only for the front man to fail to test the fortunate Clarets stopper Nick Pope.

That was ultimately a defining moment in the proceedings as Sean Dyche’s men came out following the interval a far more potent and menacing proposition.

Whilst the outstanding Joe Allen and Badou had largely dominated the opening 45 minutes, they weren’t allowed to have it all their own way during the second as the visitors began to assert themselves and remind everyone why they are so close to securing continental qualification.

Butland had made a superb save to deny Johann Gudmundsson and Barnes early after the break, before Barnes managed to scramble home an equaliser, in somewhat fortuitous circumstances, just after the hour mark.

Lambert responded by replacing Bauer with Stephen Ireland, whilst Academy graduate Tyrese Campbell was another thrown on in a desperate attempt to win the game as the seconds and minutes ticked slipped away.

As it happened it was Ireland who went closest to stealing a winner for the home side with the Irish ace curling a stunning effort towards goal, only for the post to come to Pope’s rescue and deny the midfielder what would have been a monumental goal.

At the other end, Burnley thought they had claimed the spoils right at the death when Gudmundsson, the architect of so many positive passages of play for the visitors, whipped a strike narrowly past the post with Butland appearing beaten.

For City, they face the now very real prospect of plying their trade in the Championship next season unless Lambert can galvanise his troops for one final hurrah and claim the three victories he recently stated his side need to survive, in their final trio of top-flight fixtures.

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