Birmingham 0-0 Stoke

22 August 2009 04:11
Birmingham and Stoke played out a hard-fought goalless draw at St Andrew's.Clear chances were few and far between, with Blues' Garry O'Connor going closest when his header was brilliantly stopped by goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen. Stoke were the more potent in attack with Dave Kitson heading over from 12 yards and fellow striker Ricardo Fuller forcing Joe Hart to save low. Fuller also had a goal disallowed in a match that saw Stoke striker James Beattie come off with a leg injury. On paper, this fixture did not give the impression it was going to be a classic and, sadly, it lived up to those expectations. The only testing effort on goal of the first half came from the boot of Birmingham defender Franck Queudrue who ventured forward before rifling a 25-yard shot that Sorensen turned away. Stoke looked the more composed during the first 45 minutes and were more threatening in attack. Unfortunately for Tony Pulis's men they were hampered by an injury to Beattie early in the match. The former Southampton forward landed awkwardly trying to meet Matthew Etherington's cross and appeared to injure his leg. Kitson, who has yet to score for Stoke since signing for £5.5m last season, replaced his fellow striker but a wild shot from 20 yards was all he could muster in the opening half. Stoke employed their trademark aerial tactics, in particular the Rory Delap throw, that worked a treat last season, but Alex McLeish's men were equal to what was launched at them. The closest the Potters came to scoring via the Delap catapult was when the impressive Irish defender Keith Fahey had to head clear a yard from his goalline after team-mate Queudrue inadvertently put him in danger. Stoke though, did not manage an effort on target until the 56th minute when strike Fuller ran into the area from the right but, challenged, only managed to fire in a weak shot which Hart held. Fuller should have done better with the next opportunity that came his way, but this time the former Preston man could only head on to the netting after Blues defender O'Connor chested an Etherington ball into his path. The Blues attack seemed to be on a sabbatical for much of the match, until O'Connor forced a sensational save from Sorensen, diving to his right. That gave the match a bit of edge and at the other end Kitson headed over from Liam Lawrence's left-wing delivery before Fuller had the ball in the net only to be cautioned by Chris Foy for using his hand in the process. Birmingham finished the game the strongest but they know they need to bring in players of quality - perhaps courtesy of Carson Yeung's millions - if they want to avoid the one-season wonders tag. Stoke, who were watched by assistant-in-waiting Peter Reid, will continue to bombard teams with their set-pieces but may need to employ a Plan B if, like today, Plan A fails to work. Birmingham manager Alex McLeish: "It wasn't a bad result although we would have liked to have two wins back-to-back. "It was a tough tough game against a resilient team and we had to work hard to get people behind them. "It's a big step up into the Premier League but so far we have defended well and that is pleasing." Stoke manager Tony Pulis: "I think we are disappointed not to have nicked the result. If we were a little bit calmer then we could have turned chances into goals. "We were disappointed with the free kick given against us, if our keeper hadn't saved it I might have had a rant and rave about that. It was a great save though and the two centre-halves were amazing."

Source: BBC_Sport