Game Number 48 of 2014/15
The second game for Stoke U21s at the Moss Rose this season, this time with the added bonus of knockout football. Immediately it was noticeable that Stoke had made a number of changes from their first visit to Macc 3 months previous.
The game started in sedate fashion, with both sides well organized when without the ball, and neat and tidy when in possession. It is a style in marked contrast to Macclesfield Town, and one which I always think would work very well in the Conference, where you can back yourselves to stop teams getting in behind by allowing efforts from distance and crosses into your box. The issue with the way both teams played here though, was in the final third; there was a lack of runners from midfield, and the strikers struggled to find any space in which to operate.
Unfortunately this resulted in precious little goalmouth action, with both central defensive pairings effectively mopping up any loose passes or aerial threat. Even when both sides were depleted by a dismissal and injuries, the formations remained rigid and a pair of well disciplined midfields ensured the game kept a good shape. Stoke were forced to play over 75 minutes with ten men after their centre half and captain was dismissed before half time for a pair of rash yellow cards. Unbelievably the replacement was also to leave the action early, with a muscle injury in the early stages of the first period of extra time, 3 substitutions having already been made. Stoke coped admirably with their numerical disadvantage, and were aided as United played the last ten minutes with 10 men, also falling foul to an injury after using all their subs.
So with the predictable goalless scoreline after 120 minutes this forgettable tie went to penalties. Both goalkeepers must have relished the prospect of being tested, having been virtual spectators for the past two hours. With the just 19 exhausted players remaining between them, i wasn’t expecting textbook spot kicks. Thankfully, the players showed remarkable composure for the most part, with Stoke winning through on sudden death, as United failed to convert their sixth effort.
Fingers crossed for a home draw for Stoke, and a top premier league opponent to attract a few fans down to the Moss.
Entertainment = 4/10