Stoke City 1-0 Ipswich Town - Half-Time
Saturday, 8th Dec 2018 16:07
Tom Ince’s injury time goal has given Stoke City a 1-0 half-time lead over the Blues at the bet365 Stadium.
Town boss Paul Lambert made five changes from the team which lost 2-0 at Nottingham Forest last week, including a switch in goal with Dean Gerken replacing the out-of-form Bartosz Bialkowski.
Lambert, facing the club he managed between January and May this year, stuck with the same back four he has fielded in all five of his previous games but with Cole Skuse out with a knee injury, Trevoh Chalobah returned in the deeper midfield role with Flynn Downes and Jon Nolan, who was making his first start since the change of manager, ahead of him.
Jack Lankester was handed his second senior start on the right of the front three with Freddie Sears on the left and Jordan Roberts the central striker. Kayden Jackson and Grant Ward, starters at Forest last week, missed out on places in the 18, while Teddy Bishop dropped to the bench.
Stoke made two changes to the team which drew 2-2 at Reading last week with Saido Berahino and Ashley Williams replacing James McClean and Bruno Martins Indi.
The game started in persistent and increasingly heavy rain. Chances were non-existent in the opening minutes but on six Benik Afobe almost profited from Matthew Pennington’s hesitancy, however, Gerken came off his line quickly to get something on the ball and, as the Stoke striker rather ambitiously claimed he’d been fouled, Jonas Knudsen cleared.
Penalty area action continued to be a rarity with the Potters having most of the ball although unable to test Gerken, but with the Blues also having the occasional passage of play but similarly without creating any danger.
On 20 Berahino struck a shot not too far wide of Gerken’s left post from the edge of the box, before the Blues twice went closer to going in front.
First, following a corner on right, the ball was eventually played back to taker Lankester, who beat a man before hitting a shot from a very tight angle which truck the post, then keeper Jack Butland before going behind.
Following the resultant corner, Lankester crossed back in after his initial ball had been cleared and skipper Luke Chambers was unable to get enough on his header which slipped past the far post.
Ince shot over in the 24th minute, then Sears curled an effort similarly too high at the other after good work from the increasingly involved Lankester, looking far from overawed against an opposition side featuring plenty of players with extensive Premier League experience.
In the 32nd minute, with the Blues growing in belief and keeping the ball with greater confidence, Roberts shot wide from the edge of the box. A minute later, Nolan sent Sears away on the left but the ex-West Ham man’s cross was blocked.
Lankester threatened again on 35, cutting in from the right and hitting a shot which flew not too far over Butland’s bar after good work from Downes.
Referee Geoff Eltringham succumbed to what looked to be a hamstring injury in the 39th minute with fourth official Anthony Backhouse replacing him. Coincidentally, Eltringham was the sub official last time a referee was subbed in a Town match, at Middlesbrough a year ago tomorrow when Merseyside-based official Robert Jones was forced off at half-time.
Town deserved to go in level at the break having matched - and at times more than matched - the Potters but in injury time they fell behind.
Sam Clucas found himself in space midway inside the Town half and played in Ince, breaking into the area along with Afobe on an overloaded Town left, and the former Blackpool man slipped the ball under the advancing Gerken.
There was just time for a blocked Lankester header from a Chalobah cross from the right following a Lankester corner on the other flank to bounce through to Butland before replacement referee Backhouse brought the period to an end.
The late goal was harsh on the Blues on the overall balance of the half. Having started slowly, Town found their feet and in patches looked the more likely scorers with Stoke having seen a lot of the ball but without looking particularly threatening until Clucas found the gap into which he played the ball for Ince, who took his chance confidently.
If the Blues play as they did in the first half then they have a chance of taking something from the game, however, comebacks have been somewhat rare in the season up to now.
Stoke City: Butland, Martina, Shawcross (c), Williams, Pieters, Woods, Allen, Clucas, Ince, Afobe, Berahino. Subs: Federici, McClean, Martins Indi, Diouf, Fletcher, Crouch, Sorensen.
Town: Gerken, Spence, Chambers (c), Pennington, Knudsen, Chalobah, Downes, Nolan, Lankester, Sears, Roberts. Subs: Bialkowski, Edwards, Harrison, Bishop, Rowe, Nsiala, Dozzell. Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham) (Anthony Backhouse (Cumbria) 39).
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