since 1878

Stoke City (1) 1 - 0 (0) Ipswich Town

Coca-Cola Championship 2007-08

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Referee: MJ Jones

Manager: Tony Pulis

Britannia Stadium 15:00

Attendance: 23,563

Manager: Jim Magilton

Match Number: 3245


 Lawrence (42)


SidibeDiao (81)


 Lawrence (38)
 Delap (62)





















Match Report

Stoke boys having a ball at Magilton's expense

With Watford wobbling and West Bromwich Albion wavering, Stoke have seized the initiative at the top of the Championship on the back of a free-scoring run of form - and have lifted expectations in the Potteries of a return to the top flight after an absence of 23 years to a new high.

That run was prolonged here, courtesy of a terrific goal from Liam Lawrence. Their rivals dropped more points, so this was a good day all round for Tony Pulis and his team.

They may not suit the purists, relying as much on strength and organisation as the skills of a player like Lawrence, who according to the statisticians is currently the division's best. But who is to argue about their right to be in pole position with a quarter of the season remaining?

Stoke have now won six of their last seven matches, scoring 16 goals in the process, and that this match was a dour affair with little apart from Lawrence's strike to brighten the afternoon will be of no concern whatsoever.

'I've been in the game too long to take anything for granted,' said Pulis. 'I know how tough this division is and how things can change. We have to keep our foot on the pedal and the momentum going.

'Ipswich are a good side who pass the ball around well. But we kept our shape and kept it tight. Liam's goal would have graced any game. I was fortunate to be right behind it and it was always heading for the top corner. He's been on fire for us.'

By contrast, it was a bad day all round for Jim Magilton, whose team slipped out of the play-off places and who watched the last half an hour from the directors' box after referee Mike Jones sent him off after a row over what the Ipswich manager insisted was the ballboys not returning the balls to his players quickly enough.

Magilton said: 'The multi-ball system is a joke. We have had bad experiences at this club before. We were chasing the game and I tried to speed things along by throwing the ball back. I explained it in a calm manner to the referee, but he didn't want to know.

'Stoke are churning out results and won it with a moment of magic, even though it resulted from poor defensive work from our point of view. We competed throughout. but lacked quality in the final third and didn't seem to have the belief that we would win the game.'

As Magilton walked off down the touchline, a fan threw a beer can at him - an incident that could put the damper on what is turning out to be campaign to remember at the Britannia Stadium, which witnessed its biggest crowd for six years.

Lawrence's goal lifted a first half characterised, unfortunately, by a stream of long throws that Stoke hurled into the penalty area from both flanks. Ricardo Fuller put a decent volley over, while Alan Lee lifted the one clear chance into the crowd at the other end after good work by Jon Walters.

Had Lee converted it, there might have been a different outcome. Instead, three minutes before the break, Dan Harding gave the ball away to Lawrence, who whipped a 22-yard cross-shot into the top far corner.

For all their possession, Ipswich rarely looked like responding. Their new Macedonian midfielder, Velice Sumulikoski, forced Steve Simonsen to turn aside one sharp drive struck from distance, but the goalkeeper had little else to concern him.

Neither, to be fair, did Stephen Bywater in the Ipswich goal. Stoke's best effort after the break came from Mamady Sidibe, whose overhead volley from man of the match Lawrence's cross whistled over.

Pulis later admitted his club may have to address Magilton's complaint. 'We have little kids, not apprentices, doing it and some of them sit on the ball, rather than throw it back,' he said.

Stuart Barnes (The Observer)

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2007-08 Reports