Colchester United 0 Stoke City 1: Cresswell puts Stoke within sight of top flight

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The Independent Football

There was nostalgia and sentiment aplenty at Layer Road for this, Colchester United's last game at the stadium ahead of their move to a new home in the summer. However, it all seemed a little much for one Stoke City player after the game. "It was more like a village fête out there when we were trying to warm up before the game," he remarked. "It was a little off-putting." He had a point.

Perhaps, however, it has been this miserly, killjoy attitude that has contributed to Stoke's success on the pitch this season. Few could have blamed them as Tony Pulis's men took the vital victory, courtesy of a first-half goal from Richard Cresswell, which edged them a little closer to their first taste of top-level football since 1985.

Stoke now head to the last day of the season needing just a point at home to Leicester City, a side fighting for their Championship survival, to ensure their place in next season's Premier League.

"The gaffer has put a squad together that has worked tirelessly and we have proved over the season that we are good enough," said Cresswell, who played in the top division with Sheffield Wednesday and Leicester early in his career. "The League table does not lie."

The goal, when it came, was a scrappy one and arrived at the end of a first half of football that was characterised, it seemed, by a dogged determination by the home team not to be beaten as comprehensively as they had been in recent games. A long throw-in from Rory Delap created problems in the Colchester penalty area.

After initially being cleared by the goalkeeper Dean Gerken, the ball was hooked back in by Liam Lawrence, but Cresswell delivered the last touch as the visitors took the lead. Colchester did little to warrant a share of the points and though the substitute Clive Platt had a goal ruled out late on in the game, it would have been harsh on Stoke City.

Delap, the Stoke midfield player, added: "We have had to make the most of what we had. We have a big, powerful fit and strong side.

"We have overpowered teams this season. You have to force yourself on the other team and if you have big lads in the side, then you have to use that and it has worked for us."

Colchester meanwhile, look ahead to a new challenge, at a new home after leaving Layer Road, which has hosted professional games for the past 70 years. The manager Geraint Williams knows where the club's board need to direct their resources. "We need to keep a hold of our good players," said the Welshman. "We have already started doing this, sitting around with their representatives to let them know how important they are to the club's future."

Goal: Cresswell (45) 0-1.

Colchester United (4-4-2): Gerken; Ifil, Coyne, Virgo (Balogh, 43), White; Duguid (Platt, 88), Jackson, Hammond, Elito; Lisbie, Vernon (Sheringham, 62). Substitutes not used: Cousins (gk), Izzet.

Stoke City (4-4-2): Nash; Riggott, Shawcross, Cort, Dickinson; Lawrence, Delap, Whelan, Cresswell; Sidibe (Ameobi, 79), Fuller. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Wilkinson, Pugh, Pearson.

Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).

Booked: Stoke City Ameobi.

Man of the Match: Cresswell

Attendance: 6,300.