Thordarson believes Burton may be key to success at Cardiff

Scott Wilson
Wednesday 01 May 2002 00:00 BST

The Stoke City manager, Gudjon Thordarson, is hoping that Deon Burton can be the man to unlock the Cardiff defence in the Second Division play-off semi-final second leg at Ninian Park tonight.

Burton, on loan from the relegated Premiership club Derby County, came off the bench on Sunday to score the vital 84th-minute goal that gives Stoke hope of pulling back a 2-1 deficit. Only a scrambled clearance from Spencer Prior prevented the 25-year-old from grabbing a stoppage-time equaliser and Thordarson looks set to give Burton 90 minutes in which to influence the game in Cardiff.

"The goal was very important," said Thordarson. "And I thought Deon did ever so well after he came on. He was a constant threat and his pace really seemed to unsettle the Cardiff defenders."

Burton has been a disappointment during his time at the Britannia Stadium, scoring just twice in 11 games before Sunday, but his big-game experience could prove crucial at Ninian Park.

Stoke last won in Cardiff in October 1999 when Peter Thorne, so important to the Bluebirds on Sunday, was on target for the visitors. If they are to repeat that feat tonight Thordarson knows his side will need to ask examine the Cardiff defence more seriously.

"We need to approach the game in a different way," he said. "I haven't decided whether that means starting with Deon, but he definitely gives us an option."

Burton, a Jamaican international who made five appearances in a Cardiff shirt during a brief loan spell in late 1996, is desperate to turn around both his, and Stoke's, seasons.

"We really needed at least one goal to give us a chance down there on Wednesday – now we feel we have a chance," he said. "We looked a bit nervous in the first half, but we improved in the second half and found our feet and if there had been another 10 minutes I think we would definitely have pulled level.

"I can understand why the manager left me out. I've not scored many while I've been here, but that could be an important one. It could spur us on to go down there and get something.

"Personally, I hope I can take things on from here. It's been a bit frustrating for me, and I can see the manager's point of view. I came here to score goals and I haven't been doing it."

Stoke were roared on by a vociferous home support at the weekend and the atmosphere is likely to be every bit as hot at a 20,500 sell-out Ninian Park. There are few grounds in British football as intimidating to opposition players, and the Bluebirds' captain, Graham Kavanagh, is urging home supporters to raise the roof.

The former Potters favourite, roundly booed on his return to the Britannia Stadium, is looking for a repeat of the red-hot atmosphere that so unsettled Leeds during their FA Cup defeat earlier this year.

He said: "Our supporters were magnificent throughout at Stoke and it will be a massive help if they can show the same kind of spirit on Wednesday. I'm sure they will create an intimidating atmosphere - as they did in the FA Cup game against Leeds – and see us through."

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