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Potters Pegged Back By Owls

Benik Afobe

STOKE CITY let slip a two goal lead against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday afternoon as Gary Rowett’s men were forced to settle for a share of the spoils.

The Potters appeared to have been on course for their first away triumph of the term thanks to Benik Afobe’s sublimely taken first-half brace.

However, Marco Matias’ close range strike gave the home side hope before Barry Bannan broke the visitors’ hearts with a stunning free-kick just five minutes from time.

It was a real kick in the stomach for the City boss and his troops, who had produced undoubtedly their best display of the campaign at Hillsborough.

They were forced to rue several golden opportunities to have put the game to bed long before Bannan’s late brilliance, with Mame Diouf and Peter Etebo both being denied from close range.

Rowett will also have been left exasperated at the ease of the Owls’ first goal, especially coming just 90 seconds after Afobe had doubled the Potters advantage.

The former Wolverhampton Wanderers ace was in inspired form, netting his opener in just the second minute with a thumping strike after being teed up by Senegalese forward Diouf.

He, along with Ryan Woods and Ince were the three changes made to the starting 11 from the side that were narrowly beaten by West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns two weeks earlier.

Woods - making his first start since joining from Brentford - produced a sublime and composed performance in central midfield, dictating the tempo of the game as the visitors wasted no time in asserting themselves on the Owls.

Ince had whipped an effort just the wrong side of the post before Afobe latched onto a clever through ball to take his tally for the season to four, and seemingly set the visitors on the road to a second triumph of the term.

However, a lapse in concentration at the back culminated in Matias latching on to a long punt forward, and flicking past the helpless Jack Butland from 12-yards.

The goal breathed a little bit of life into the hosts, but in truth it was City who were by far the more likely of the two sides to score a fourth goal of the afternoon.

Ince again went close moments after the restart and Diouf should have done better when he was freed inside the penalty box by the outstanding Woods.

Nigerian World Cup star Etebo was next to try his luck from a tight angle which Cameron Dawson did well to smother, before Cuco Martina fired a delicious ball across the six-yard box which narrowly evaded Afobe.

Wednesday manager Jos Luhukay threw a final roll of the dice to try and salvage an undeserved point for his side - making use of all three substitutions available to him as the clock ticked towards the 90-minute mark.

Some incisive link-up play between Bannan and Tom Lees culminated in Joe Allen bringing down the Scottish international midfielder, and he dusted himself down and whipped home a trademark strike, which rippled the back of the net via the inside of the post.

Absolute heartbreak for the Potters and joy for the hosts, who had barely threatened Butland’s goal throughout the duration of the contest.

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