Football: Crowe keeps City flying

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The Independent Online
THE RECORD books will show that this win created a new record for Stoke City - their sixth successive win broke their previous best start to a season. And, as that record has stood since 1905-06, even Sir Stanley Matthews probably doesn't remember it.

City were, eventually, worthy and comfortable winners although it had taken a second-half substitution to provide the cutting edge that their often attractive approach play had lacked until the diminutive Dean Crowe replaced Ray Wallace in the 65th minute.

One of Stoke's former heroes, the striker Mark Stein, was given a warm welcome by the home fans and immediately repaid their solicitations by missing a sitter in the first minute. Mohamed Berthe had swept past Brian Small on the right wing and his cross flew beyond the defence to reach Stein at the far post. Off balance, the Bournemouth striker skied his shot and the fans who had applauded him minutes earlier breathed a sigh of relief.

That was the only real chance created in a first half full of labour but to little avail and Bournemouth were deprived of what could have been the real threat that Berthe promised when the big midfielder was injured and replaced by Dave Town after only 15 minutes.

The Bournemouth keeper Mark Ovendale caused his own biggest problem when he came for Kevin Keen's cross and missed, but the captain Ian Cox saved his team-mate's blushes by blocking Small's shot.

Stein was to miss another sitter in the 58th minute when Neil Young's cross again found him unmarked at the far post. Again, he shot high over Carl Muggleton's cross-bar - and it was to prove a costly miss as 12 minutes later Small, fed by Crowe, finally made it to the by-line and Peter Thorne scrambled the ball into the Bournemouth net. Four minutes later it was all over when Crowe scored an untidy second goal after good work by Thorne and Chris Short.

Records apart, what would have gladdened the manager Brian Little's heart was the fact that for the third successive game in the League, Stoke had achieved a clean sheet. A large part of that was due to Muggleton's clean and crisp handling, in direct contrast to Ovendale in the other goal.