Town 1-4 Stoke City
Saturday, 8th Apr 2006 19:16
Woeful Town crashed to a 4-1 defeat at home to Stoke as their poor end of season run stretched to six games without a win. After a goalless first half, Fabian Wilnis's own goal put the visitors ahead. Danny Haynes netted an equaliser but Stoke scored three more via Bangoura, Chadwick and Russell.
Dean Bowditch came into the Town starting line-up alongside Alan Lee who was considered OK after his groin injury. Chris Casement made his first senior start at right-back with Fabian Wilnis switching to the left.
There was an early scare for the Blues in the third minute after Richard Naylor fouled former Canary Darel Russell on the edge of the area, the Town defender having slipped and lost possession. Russell decided to take the kick quickly to catch keeper Shane Supple off-guard but sent the ball wide.
Casement did well down the right in the fifth minute, sending in a dangerous cross which was deflected away from the waiting Lee and Bowditch by a Stoke foot.
Peter Kopteff shot over after making a run down the left on ten, then moments later hit a 25-yarder straight at Supple.
In the 16th minute Dave Brammer went over from 25 yards. The visitors created all the chances up until Alan Lee's shot over the bar from the edge of the box in the 18th minute.
Soon after, Russell shot wide, prior to Supple saving Paul Gallagher's effort from the left. At the other end, Matt Richards's strike deflected wide.
Jason De Vos was left needing treatment in the 25th minute after appearing to be caught by an elbow but was able to continue. Town were starting to get on top despite some strange refereeing decisions from first-time Championship official Patrick Miller.
The Blues enjoyed a short spell of decent passing but created little in the way of chances until a loose ball fell for Matt Richards inside the area, the midfielder's shot striking a hand, but a penalty aware would have been harsh.
Just before the break, Darel Russell was close to putting Stoke ahead, cutting in from the left but shooting into the sidenetting. The same player shot over from 25 yards in injury time.
As at Luton last week, there had been little to remember in a dull first half. The Blues had failed to make any serious impact on the Stoke defence, despite a spell of passing it around the edge of the box in the final 10 minutes or so. Stoke had shown a greater ability to create opportunity and Darel Russell in particular will have felt he should have put his side in front.
Town switched Chris Casement for Sito at the break, while Currie moved to the left and Richards to the right. The Blues were close to a goal early on when Richards crossed from the left and Bowditch headed wide of Steve Simonsen's right post.
Stoke went ahead in the 50th minute when Fabian Wilnis got to Dave Brammer's left-wing cross ahead of Carl Hoefkens at the far post but could only divert the ball past Shane Supple.
Owen Garvan got his name in the referee's book for a foul on Russell in the 53rd minute and was withdrawn along with Bowditch two minutes later, Jim Magilton and Danny Haynes taking over.
Russell continued his determined effort to get his name on the scoresheet with a shot wide, while Richards sent a volley over the bar at the other end.
Stoke should have gone two-up in the 64th minute but Paul Gallagher bundled a cross from the right wide from a matter of inches.
Three minutes later, the Blues got back on terms. A clearance fell to Jimmy Juan just outside the area, the Frenchman hitting a shot which Simonsen couldn't hold. Alan Lee appeared to be pulled back as he went for the loose ball but Danny Haynes was also there and lashed in his fourth goal of the season.
Haynes's goal was to prove to be the high watermark in a disappointing afternoon for Town. On 73 the Potters were close to going back in front after Shane Supple made a complete mess of a clearance, Richard Naylor blocking Sammy Bangoura's strike on the line.
Juan's 25-yard shot was saved by Simonsen, more comfortably this time with Haynes once again following in, but this was to be Town's last effort on goal as the visitors showed far more enterprise in the last 10 minutes, scoring three goals.
First Bangoura was left unmarked and given time and space to pick his spot beyond Supple. Shortly afterwards, Town claimed a penalty after Haynes appeared to be felled in the area by Luke Chadwick but referee Miller was unimpressed.
As injury time drew close, Chadwick caught Wilnis in possession on halfway, the former Manchester United player taking the ball into the area and holding off Richard Naylor before beating Supple.
With virtually the final touch of the game the Potters scored a fourth, Town again losing possession to Chadwick in a dangerous position, the midfielder once more bringing the ball forward but this time finding Russell who, at the second attempt, scored the goal he had been threatening all afternoon.
As poor a performance as Town have put in all season, rarely showing anything up front and collapsing at the back after conceding the second goal, with some players clearly already thinking ahead to the summer break. It was a game not dissimilar to the 5-1 final home game of the season defeat to Wimbledon in 2002/03.
The promising performance hoped for by the club management never materialised with more harm likely to have been done to season ticket sales than good, the low price deadline for ticket purchases on Thursday.
If anything the display will have led to fears of another season of struggle in 2006/07, rather than the promotion aspirations suggested by the displays immediately after Christmas. The boos and chants of ‘what a load of rubbish' at the end hardly came as a surprise.
A lot has been written and spoken about the current squad's potential to make a challenge next season in recent weeks, but the Blues will have to show significantly more than they did against Stoke, Luton or in a number of other recent matches to get anywhere near even the play-offs.
Town: Supple, Casement (Sito 46), Wilnis, Naylor, De Vos, Garvan (Magilton 55), Juan, Richards, Currie, Lee, Bowditch (Haynes 55). Unused: Price, Barron. Att: 23,592.
Photo: Action Images
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