STOKE CITY notched up a third successive clean sheet as they held promotion chasing Derby County to a goalless draw on Wednesday evening. Jack Butland was Stoke’s hero, producing two outstanding first half saves to keep the home side at bay, whilst the woodwork twice came to the Potters’ rescue either side of the break. Derby were unable to breach a City backline which is becoming more dogged and gritty by the week.
The hard work and aggression at the back very nearly laid the foundations for an unlikely late City winner only for James McClean to see his thumping header cannon back off the post.
Prior to kick-off Nathan Jones was forced into making one change with Sam Clucas serving the first of his three-match suspension, paving the way for Ryan Woods to return. Tom Huddlestone was the first to test the resolve of Butland, lashing a thumping half-volley towards the bottom corner, only for the England international to respond with a great save down to his right.
The visitors struggled for any real early momentum and were served a blow when lone striker Benik Afobe was forced off the field with a hamstring strain during the initial exchanges. This may keep him sidelined for two weeks or more.
The lively Duane Holmes then saw a dipping strike ricochet off the post, before Butland once more came to his side’s aid with a stunning save from close range to thwart Harry Wilson.There was one final moment of drama however when Wilson curled a delicious free-kick towards goal, only for the crossbar to deny him what would have undoubtedly been the match winner.
Whilst Jones will demand greater presence and threat from his side moving forward, the Welshman will certainly take heart from another cleansheet, a fourth in six outings, and a point which stretches his side’s unbeaten run to six matches.
Four goals, three points and a much improved display was the start of Michael O’Neill’s reign at Stoke City as the Potters overcame Barnsley 4-2 at Oakwell. A penalty from Lee Gregory and a Joe Read more…