Etherington facing race against time for FA Cup decider

Stoke City assistant manager Dave Kemp says injured star Matthew Etherington’s FA Cup final fitness race could go right to the wire.Midfielder Etherington scored the opening goal in the 5-0 semi-final thumping of Bolton Wanderers but tore his hamstring against Wolves just nine days later.

He now faces a battle to be fit for the Wembley showdown with Manchester City next Saturday, where he could have a late fitness test. Kemp confirmed good progress is being made, although this Sunday’s Premier League clash with Arsenal comes too soon for him.

“Matthew was out on the training pitch and is ready to do some more work to build himself up – hopefully he will be ready for Wembley,” Kemp said.

“I just hope we can get it done in the timeframe available. We are feeling positive at the moment and he is progressing very nicely. The fitness is improving every day.”

“He will not make the game this weekend but we are still eight days away from the FA Cup final. When he did it everybody was a bit down – Matthew included, but with every day he has seen more light at the end of the tunnel.”

“A lot of time has been spent in our hydrotherapy pool and the sight of him doing some light training outside has provided a real lift for everyone.”

“Matthew has been improving each day but you can only take these things as they come.”

Kemp wants Stoke to build up a head of steam for the club’s first ever FA Cup final by beating third-placed Arsenal this weekend.

“Sunday’s game is big for both them and us – the stadium will be full and this is not a game that we can brush it under the carpet,” he said.

“It will be a high profile game and we want to win it desperately. If we get a good performance and the right result, it will be wonderful momentum for the Cup final.”

Etherington will not be available this weekend and Stoke will also be without defenders Danny Higginbotham (knee) and Abdoulaye Faye (hamstring) plus forwards Mamady Sidibe (Achilles) and Ricardo Fuller (Achilles).