Shawcross bolsters fortress
Stoke City 1 Middlesbrough 0
Monday 23 March 2009
When managers and chief executives talk in future about pulling together for the common good, they should point to Stoke City's Premier League debut season to demonstrate how relatively little can go a long way.
Whether or not the battle for top-flight survival is won – and the signs are increasingly promising – the Potteries folk have made the Britannia Stadium a pulsating, special place.
Fifty weeks ago tonight, barely 15,000 watched a Championship home defeat against Crystal Palace. Now, buoyed by promotion, they flock there and lift the roof at a venue that is as uplifting to home players as it is intimidating to even big-name opponents.
Stoke have taken 28 points at home and four away – a greater disparity than any other side in the top four divisions – and genuinely have what footballspeak terms a fortress. Middlesbrough stood up gallantly to the challenge. They were more fluent and creative than Stoke, only to switch off late on in allowing Ryan Shawcross, a centre-half with a scoring knack, to capitalise on the weapon Gareth Southgate had most frequently warned them about, Rory Delap's long throw.
Boro's manager knew he was in for an odious send-off from away fans near the mouth of the players' tunnel – and wasn't disappointed. Or maybe he was. After helping Middlesbrough to a European final, a Carling Cup triumph and general 21st-century good health, he is suffering because the here and now is below expectations. "The reaction is not nice, but it's the way of the modern world," Southgate said.
A failure to score in seven of their last nine league games is the root problem for Middlesbrough, who have also lost eight successive league away matches. Safety now appears much less attainable for them than for Stoke. "Our home form is just mad. Teams don't like coming here," said the Stoke winger Liam Lawrence.
Goal: Shawcross (84) 1-0.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Wilkinson (Kelly, h-t), Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham; Lawrence, Whelan, Diao (Etherington, 51), Delap; Beattie, Fuller. Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Sidibe, Amdy Faye, Camara, Sonko.
Middlesbrough (3-5-2): Jones; Wheater, Huth, Pogatetz; McMahon (Hoyte, 80), O'Neil, Shawky, Downing, Taylor (Johnson, 86); King (Alves, 56), Tuncay. Substitutes not used: Turnbull (gk), Emnes, Arca, Grounds.
Referee: L Mason (Lancashire).
Booked: Stoke Fuller, Beattie, Whelan, Diao; Middlesbrough Pogatetz.
Man of the match: O'Neil.
Latest in Sport
Sky Sports and BT Sport announce Premier League live matches for 2015/16 with Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in action
Football kits 2015/16: The good, the bad and the downright worst new shirts from around the world for next season
Chelsea 2015/16 home shirt leaked again as new picture appears online
Wimbledon 2015: 'Heather Watson deserved to win the match,' concedes world No 1 Serena Williams after gruelling contest
Dustin Brown: Who is the world number 102 who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbledon?
- 1 Michelle Watt's father says TV presenter killed herself because she was in constant pain
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 Greek debt crisis: The photograph that conveys the despair of Greece's elderly
- 4 Miami defendant sobs in court as he realises he and the judge attended the same school
- 5 Chinese stock market has lost £1.5 trillion in the last three weeks
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture