Of all the Premier League sides to "contest" the FA Cup this weekend none featured more first-teamers than Stoke City. And, seeing as they were home to a non-League outfit, Tony Pulis must be classed as a member of that dying breed of old romantics.
Indeed, the Welshman delivered a speech on behalf of the famous competition after watching his millionaires come back from an early deficit to advance to the fourth round. "The York players are a credit to their club," he said. "And so are their supporters. To bring nearly 5,000 here is absolutely fantastic. It's a real tribute to the FA Cup. We in the Premier League sometimes undervalue this competition."
Still, Pulis is not about to sacrifice the bread and butter for the icing and the cherry. He admitted that one of the principle reasons why he rested only Abdoulaye Faye on Saturday was because of the recent cold snap. "We haven't been able to train the last couple of days because of weather conditions," he said. "So I had a good chat with the players and said 'look it's a three-game week, so we'll cut back on the training'."
In other words, with Fulham visiting tomorrow, Pulis used their Blue Square Premier visitors as sparring partners – and for 60 seconds, at least, York appeared capable of delivering a knockout blow. When Neil Barrett, a former Chelsea youth team-mate of John Terry, glanced in a header in the 22nd the stage seemed set for a delicious Cup fairytale.
Because of the snow causing chaos on the M62 and M6, the Minstermen did not arrive until 3pm. The referee had put the kick-off back to 3.30pm but was about to call a postponement when the bus pulled up. With Martin Foyle, already at the Britannia Stadium due to living in the Potteries, there was the bizarre scenario of a manager submitting his teamsheet with his team stuck in traffic 30 miles away.
Yet Foyle's men eventually arrived, changed into their strips in record time and ran out for the most cursory of warm-ups. And it was not until Rory Delap delivered his two bombs that the dream began to implode. Just a minute after Barrett's career moment, the unfortunate Darren Parslow turned a trademark Delap throw-in into his on net and then, another 60 seconds later, Ricardo Fuller further capitalised on York's aerial confusion. "That throw-in is a tremendous asset," said Foyle. "It's a missile that could keep Stoke in the Premier League again." Who knows, it could even win Stoke an FA Cup.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen (Simonsen 46); Huth, Cort, Higginbotham, Collins; Lawrence, Delap, Whitehead, Etherington; Beattie (Tuncay, 74), Fuller (Sidibe 80). Substitutes not used: Whelan, Pugh, Tonge, Wilkinson.
York City: Ingham; Parslow (Purkiss 64), McGurk (Ferrell 88), Graham, Meredith (Gall 64); Lawless, Barrett, Mackin, Carruthers, Rankine, Brodie. Substitutes not used: Mimms, Gash, Pacquette, Sangare.
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire).
Bookings: Stoke: Delap, Huth. York: Graham, Meredith, Mackin, Ferrell.
Man of the match: Delap.