Football: Stoke's time to stay level-headed

Stoke City 0 Gillingham 0 Attendance:17,233

CLEAR THOUGH they are at the top of the Second Division, Stoke were given a taste of what lies ahead in a difficult month when fifth- placed Gillingham held them at bay with a fair degree of comfort yesterday. Now Stoke face two other close challengers, Walsall and Preston, and then Manchester City.

Gillingham had brought with them a 13-match unbeaten run and a better recent record than Stoke's. They also carried a reputation, acquired this season, for being well-organised and uncompromising in defence. What was evident in addition yesterday was an ability to get upfield quickly and to threaten through the close control and predatory running of Carl Asaba, scorer of 11 goals so far.

With their diminutive striker Simon Sturridge operating in the shadow of a Gillingham rearguard ably marshalled by Adrian Pennock, Stoke did not need long to work out that aerial attacks were relatively futile.

The dangers of giving Gillingham a look-in were swiftly shown when Larus Sigurdsson gave the ball away to Asaba, who sent Robert Taylor for a shot which had Carl Muggleton sprawling full length to his left to clutch.

Gillingham's goalkeeper, Vince Bartram, got into the action eventually when Kyle Lightbourne's free-kick was hit straight at him, but the Stoke man came closer to opening the scoring 10 minutes before half-time. Chris Short's plundering run took him to the byline and his pull-back was driven just wide by Lightbourne.

As Stoke piled on the pressure just before half-time, Kevin Keen curved his shot into the side-netting and David Oldfield's effort was caught by Bartram diving to his right.

Ray Wallace, who replaced Short at the start of the second half, lacked none of his predecessor's enterprise and made impressive progress down the right for a cross which Lightbourne again directed wide by inches, this time with his head.

After an hour, Sturridge was withdrawn and though his replacement, Dean Crowe, was also giving away a lot of height to Gillingham's back line, he rapidly started giving them trouble. One glorious reverse pass sent Lightbourne clear into the penalty area but he was crowded out by two defenders.

Gillingham still looked threatening on their breakaways. From one of these Muggleton punched away from Taylor, injuring the Gillingham striker in the process, then both Asaba and Paul Smith tested the Stoke goalkeeper's reactions. Five minutes from the end, as Gillingham's defence began to unravel, Bartram earned his side two points with a brilliant one-handed stop to deny Lightbourne.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there