Stoke City 2-0 Ipswich Town - Match Report
Saturday, 8th Dec 2018 17:15
A goal in each half from Tom Ince and Joe Allen saw Stoke City to a 2-0 victory over the bottom-of-the-table Blues at the bet365 Stadium. Ince’s injury time goal was harsh on Town after an evenly-balanced first half and Allen sealed the three points for the home side, who are up to 10th, on the hour.
Blues 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 of 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, with the rain having subsided, 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.
Town youngster Lankester was the first to threaten in the second half. Five minutes after the restart, the 18-year-old was fouled just outside the area to the right then took the freekick himself, a Stoke defender diverting his strike - which looked goal-bound - over the bar.
The corner came to nothing directly but the Blues kept the ball in the final third and Downes hit a low shot from the edge of the box which Butland saved down to his right.
Town had started the half the brighter of the two teams but just before the hour the home side doubled their lead with a well-worked move down the left.
Pieters exchanged passes as he broke down the flank crossed low towards Allen, who deftly turned the ball across Gerken and into the net from not far inside the area.
The second goal gave the Potters’ confidence an unsurprising boost and the Blues briefly found themselves under pressure with Ince and Berahino both having strikes blocked.
On 65 Gwion Edwards took over from Lankester, who had put in another very impressive display having been Town’s most dangerous player in the first half. A minute after coming on Edwards was booked for a foul on Pieters.
Chalobah lashed wildly over for the Blues on 70, then moments later Stoke swapped Ince for James McClean.
Town were inches away from pulling a goal back a minute later when Nolan fed Roberts on the left and the former Crawley man’s low shot was diverted away from Sears and also past the far post by a Stoke defender’s toe. As the Blues prepared to take the corner, Andre Dozzell took over from Nolan.
Boss Lambert swapped Roberts, who had battled hard throughout without getting too many sights at goal, for Ellis Harrison with 10 minutes remaining.
Although the Blues continued to try to take the game to the Potters - and the travelling 1,100 Town fans kept singing - the match looked over from a competitive perspective with Stoke looking largely content with their two-goal advantage.
With two minutes of scheduled time remaining Peter Crouch and Darren Fletcher replaced Afobe and Clucas.
There was no late drama and the referee’s whistle confirmed the extension of Town’s winless run to nine matches.
The Town travelling support was the louder of the two sets of fans at the whistle as they cheered their side off after another promising but ultimately fruitless display, a familiar story since Lambert took charge in late October.
The Blues, who have never won at Stoke’s current ground, hadn’t deserved to go in a goal behind at half-time and began the second half brightly. However, it was the Potters who were the ones able to carve out the game's clear-cut chances and once Allen had netted his goal the result was never really in doubt.
An experienced striker with an eye for goal and a player, or players, able to create him chances are bound to be high on Blues boss Lambert’s January list of additions.
Town, now eight points plus goal difference from safety, will hope they can put in a similar display but while grabbing the first win of the Lambert era at the seventh attempt when Wigan Athletic visit Portman Road next Saturday.
Stoke City: Butland, Martina, Shawcross (c), Williams, Pieters, Woods, Allen, Clucas (Fletcher 88), Ince (McClean 70), Afobe (Crouch 88), Berahino. Unused: Federici, Martins Indi, Diouf, Sorensen.
Town: Gerken, Spence, Chambers (c), Pennington, Knudsen, Chalobah, Downes, Nolan (Dozzell 73), Lankester (Edwards 65), Sears, Roberts (Harrison 80). Unused: Bialkowski, Bishop, Rowe, Nsiala. Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham) (Anthony Backhouse (Cumbria) 39). Att: 24,684 (Town: 1,011).
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