Stoke progressed to the third round of the Carling Cup for the first time in eight years with a win in an exciting game against League one Cheltenham at Whaddon Road last night.
Tony Pulis made ten changes to his starting line-up from the side that heroically beat Aston Villa on Saturday, with Carl Dickinson being the only player to retain his place in the side. Steve Simonsen, Vincent Pericard, Danny Pugh, Jon Parkin and Lewis Buxton were all handed first appearances of the season, while Demar Phillips and youngsters Nathaniel Wedderburn and Jimmy Phillips also featured in the squad.
Cheltenham made the better start to the first half, taking the game to their higher league opposition, but Stoke soon began to dominate. Despite early pressure from Cheltenham, Richard Cresswell, Vincent Pericard and Jon Parkin all went close, before Pericard found the net in the 34th minute. Stoke were denied the opening goal though by the offside flag.
The first half finished goalless, with Stoke looking the better team, and former Potter Paul Connor having the only real chance for the hosts.
Five minutes after the break, City were ahead though, Pericard being upended on the edge of the box and midfielder Glenn Whelan dispatching a curling free-kick into the Cheltenham net for his first goal of the season.
The lead was doubled four minutes later, with Richard Cresswell taking the ball past a defender and drilling a finish into the net. At this point Stoke looked like comfortably progressing into round three, but the Robins had other ideas, pulling a goal back immediately, with Ashley Vincent calmly beating Simonsen in the Stoke goal via the post.
Stoke’s two goal cushion was restored in the 74th minute, with Jon Parkin scoring powerfully his first goal of the season. For twenty minutes the hosts tried in vain to find the goal that would give them a glimmer of hope before Alex Russell’s long range strike in the fifth minute of stoppage time made the final scoreline look that bit better to Cheltenham at 3-2 to the Premier League side.
Interestingly, former captain Dominic Matteo featured as a second half substitute for Stoke, confirming that he has agreed a new deal, most likely in the role of player coach after formally being released at the end of last season.
It is good to see Stoke finally doing well in the competition that provided our finest hour, and surely offers our best chance of glory, despite fielding a second string side, particularly with fellow Premier League newboys West Brom and Hull both crashing out to lower league opposition. Hopefully in future rounds, Stoke will play a stronger side and we can progress to the final stages of the competition.
Wilkinson Buxton Shawcross Dickinson
Cresswell Diao Whelan Pugh
Subs: Matteo for Diao (75), D. Phillips for Dickinson (79), Shotton for Wilkinson (90)
Subs Not Used: J. Phillips, Wedderburn, De Laet