FOOTBALL: Albion blown off course

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The Independent Online
Stoke City 2 West Bromwich Albion 1

West Bromwich, needing three points in order to scale the First Division summit for the first time since 1988, were blown off course by resurgent Stoke on a blustery afternoon at the Victoria Ground yesterday.

The ill wind which invariably follows Albion into their encounters with Stoke materialised again as the hosts belied their lowly position with goals by Paul Peschisolido and Kevin Keen. A penalty by Andy Hunt gave Alan Buckley's side hope of a draw, but Stoke moved with relative ease to only their second win of the season.

Their victory maintained a remarkable ascendancy over Albion. Since losing 6-0 at The Hawthorns seven years ago, Stoke have now won eight and lost none of the 12 meetings. Albion fancied they were ready to break the mould but were ragged rather than rhythmic.

Stoke harried them from the start and laid siege to their goal from the second minute, when Stuart Naylor tipped over Keen's drive. The Albion keeper was to have an eventful game, pulling off numerous agile saves as well as being injured in conceding the opening goal and gifting Stoke the second.

Peschisolido, a one-man swarm, rewarded Stoke's enterprise in the 15th minute. The origins of the goal were strictly route one - a clearance by Mark Prudhoe, glanced on by Nigel Gleghorn - but the Canadian's scorching run and precise finish belonged to a higher plane.

With the exception of Martin Carruthers' header against the bar, Naylor kept out everything Stoke threw at him until the 52nd minute. Keen, trying his luck from 20 yards, was amazed when his shot passed straight through Naylor's waiting arms.

So amazed that he tore off his shirt and was booked for his troubles. But Albion reduced the deficit 10 minutes later. Lee Sandford was harshly adjudged to have fouled Kevin Donovan, allowing Hunt to score with the visitors' only shot on target.

"The quality of our passing game has been terrific this season, but we were a poor second today," Buckley said. Lou Macari attributed Stoke's revival to a realisation that they are "a running, working team" who lose their way attempting "the wrong type of football". Opposed philosophies; it will be revealing to see which prevails in the long run.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Prudhoe; Clarkson, Sigurdsson, Overson, Sandford; Keen, Wallace, Gleghorn, Potter; Carruthers (Sturridge, 85), Peschisolido. Substitutes not used: Dreyer, Brightwell.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Naylor; Burgess, Mardon, Raven, Edwards (Ashcroft, 66); Donovan, Coldicott, Hamilton, Gilbert; Hunt, Taylor (Rees, 66). Substitute not used: Reece (gk).

Referee: T Lunt (Ashton-in-Makerfield).