Stoke late show sinks Cottagers

The Potters hit the post through Delap and saw their own crossbar

rattled by John Arne Riise before Walters broke the deadlock in the

80th minute, diverting Matthew Etherington’s effort home. Delap

then doubled their advantage seven minutes later, nodding in an

Etherington free-kick. Stoke’s deserved win continued their solid

start to the campaign, Tony Pulis’ side having now taken 12 points

from their opening eight Premier League fixtures to consolidate

their position in the top half of the table. Pulis made two changes

from the defeat at Swansea last time out, with Etherington, having

been given a sugar injection for a back complaint, returning to the

Potters team along with defender Matthew Upson. Striker Kenwyne

Jones, who had been sidelined for three matches by a hamstring

injury, was among the substitutes, while the visitors’ first XI

showed one adjustment from their 6-0 thumping of QPR, Aaron Hughes

coming in for Zdenek Grygera after recovering from a groin problem.

Fulham won a corner in the fifth minute and Danny Murphy’s delivery

was flapped at by Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, but also missed

by everyone else. Murphy sent a free-kick wide of the target before

a well-worked set-piece move by the hosts saw the ball fall to Andy

Wilkinson, who put it into the side-netting. Marc Wilson then made

a crucial intervention to prevent Mousa Dembele’s through-ball

finding Bobby Zamora and Riise tried his luck from outside the

area, but his shot whistled over the bar. Peter Crouch attempted to

volley a smart cross from Jermaine Pennant but failed to make

proper contact. Six minutes later the ball came to Crouch in the

box again, Wilson’s effort ricocheting off the Fulham wall, but the

tall striker saw his shot blocked. After a sluggish start Stoke

were beginning to exert some pressure and Cottagers keeper Mark

Schwarzer had to be alert to beat Crouch to Etherington’s cross.

Dembele, who had picked up an injury, came off for Damien Duff

before Etherington linked up with Walters, only to roll a tame shot

wide. Five minutes before the break Zamora nearly put Fulham in

front with a header that went just the wrong side of the post.

Pennant then came similarly close in stoppage time, playing a

one-two with Crouch but dinking the ball narrowly wide. Shortly

after the restart, Delap lashed a shot from distance that was

rising too fast to trouble Schwarzer. Delap then caused a brief

scramble in the box with one of his trademark long throw-ins that

Fulham managed to hack clear, before the midfielder picked up the

first booking of the game for a challenge on Clint Dempsey.

Schwarzer made a hash of dealing with another Delap delivery in the

64th minute, the Australian twice failing to claim the ball and the

visitors eventually surviving thanks to a goal-line clearance as

Crouch tried to force it home. It was proving an eventful time for

Delap, who then sent a deflected drive crashing against the post.

Stoke continued to press, with Wilson curling a free-kick over the

bar. The Potters were then denied on the line again, Murphy getting

in the way of Wilson’s header and referee Martin Atkinson waving

away protests that the Fulham captain had handled. For all their

momentum, the hosts almost fell behind in the 78th minute as

Riise’s fiercely-struck free-kick crashed back off the bar. But two

minutes later Stoke grabbed the lead as Walters stabbed in

Etherington’s shot. Delap then wrapped up the points with three

minutes of normal time remaining, rising to meet Etherington’s

free-kick from the left and head it past Schwarzer.