Stoke defend Wilkinson tackle on Dembele

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The Independent Football

Andy Wilkinson's tackle on Moussa Dembele at the end of Stoke's Carling Cup victory over Fulham was unnecessary but without malice, according to Potters assistant manager Dave Kemp.

With his side 2-0 up at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke defender Wilkinson received a booking in the third minute of stoppage time for bringing down Dembele, who clutched at his left leg and had to be carried off on a stretcher.

The Belgium forward departed the stadium on crutches and Cottagers boss Mark Hughes was left fuming at Wilkinson, who he accused of ignoring the footballer's code by making an "absolutely ridiculous" challenge when there was no need to do so.

Kemp agreed that Wilkinson's tackle had been unwarranted but insisted the 26-year-old had not meant to harm Dembele.

"It was an unnecessary, rash challenge - we know that, we are football people as well," Kemp said.

"We have spoken to Andy about it. He didn't need to make the challenge, I agree.

"All I can say is that I hope the player is not too badly hurt.

"There is no malice in his challenge - it is just over-enthusiasm."

Hughes - who recently lost striker Bobby Zamora to a broken leg - described Wilkinson's challenge as potentially career-threatening.

"If he (Dembele) has avoided serious injury then he has been a very lucky boy because the tackle that took him out was, from my point of view, an absolutely ridiculous challenge at that stage of the game," Hughes said.

"When you are at that stage of the game and your team is leading 2-0, there is a certain code, I would suggest, that you look after your fellow professional, and the lad has ignored that.

"There was no need for the challenge at that late stage in the game and he has put a fellow professional's career at risk by the nature of it. I don't know what the hell he was thinking about to be perfectly honest."

Referee Mark Halsey blew the whistle for full-time shortly after the incident to confirm the hosts' victory and their place in the fourth round, which was sealed by headers from Danny Higginbotham and Kenwyne Jones in either half.

The Potters team featured seven changes from their previous outing and Kemp felt the result demonstrated the strength Stoke's squad now has.

"I don't think we weakened the team," he said.

"Like a lot of teams in the Premier League we have a good squad.

"We had good defenders on the pitch, good midfield players and good forwards so that we could score goals.

"This is probably the first time this club has been in a situation like that."