It was the Potters’ eighth game in all competitions without defeat on home soil although they were made to wait for victory as Martin Jol’s side proved difficult to break down in the first half. The game opened up after the restart and the hosts took control with Jon Walters and Rory Delap scoring the decisive goals hand them victory. Jol admitted he would have been happy with a point going into the game and his side should have scored at least once during the first half as they started in a positive manner following their 6-0 thrashing of QPR two-weeks ago. Despite their confident start it was Stoke who threatened more in the early stages with Peter Crouch the focal point of everything good about their offensive game.
Tony Pulis’ side should have taken the lead when Jermaine Pennant exchanged passes with the gangly striker, who had earlier miscued a volley, before cutting in from the right and flashing a shot wide of Mark Schwarzers goal. Fulham fared little better in front of goal with John Arne Riise smashing a shot over the bar before Bobby Zamora headed over from Chris Bairds inviting delivery. As usual long throws were the order of the day for Stoke with Rory Delap providing an aerial problem for the Cottagers defence. The away side also had a similar threat with Riise showing off his throwing abilities and despite the panic caused nothing game to fruition from either man’s efforts.
The second period was much more entertaining with the hosts moving out of first gear to dominate the game although they almost fell behind as Riise cracked the bar with a trademark stinging free kick. It was the Potters who posed the greater threat though and Marc Wilson was unlucky not to open the scoring with Danny Murphy keeping ball out on the line whilst Delap’s curled effort clipped the post.
It was down to the magnificent Matthew Etherington to provide Stoke with the inspiration to claim victory. Firstly he set Walters to break the deadlock with 10 minutes to go with the striker reacting quickest to turn the ball home from close range. Despite requiring painkilling injections in his back before kick off he managed to set up Delap with the midfielder heading home his fine free kick delivery to wrap up the win in the closing stages.