Stoke 1 Blackburn 0: Dog days all in the past for Lawrence
19 April 2009 09:30
Liam Lawrence salutes the Stoke fans after his winner sealed a crucial win
Liam Lawrence had been up half the night, too nervous to sleep, and at the final whistle he lay on the turf, too exhausted to stand.
Not so Abdoulaye Faye, who had enough energy to sprint around practically the whole pitch on an impromptu lap of honour. Keeper Thomas Sorensen was not far behind.
Soon afterwards manager Tony Pulis managed to keep a straight face when he warned that Stoke's Premier League status is not yet secure. Who was he kidding?
Make no mistake, this was the day Stoke stayed up. And who better to claim the all-important goal than Lawrence?
The midfielder did more than anyone to help Stoke into the top flight and then scored his club's first Premier League goal on the opening day, only to spend three months on the sidelines with an ankle injury after tripping over his pet labrador, Max, and falling down the stairs.
'I didn't get much sleep last night because for us this is like being in the European Cup final,' said Lawrence.
'Everything was going through my head. I got up and watched some TV. Luckily the dog is at the kennels!
'We're delighted because that was the biggest game of our careers. I just collapsed because I had nothing left to give.'
Lawrence looked sharp enough in the 75th minute when he cut inside Gael Givet and beat Blackburn keeper Paul Robinson.
For a player who went up with Sunderland in 2005 and back down the following season with a then record low total of 15 points, relief was understandable.
'You can count me out for any excitement on the last day,' said Lawrence. 'We don't want to be going to Arsenal needing to win or draw - Arsene Wenger hates us.'
Blackburn lacked an attacking threat without Roque Santa Cruz and Jason Roberts and captain Ryan Nelsen betrayed the concern in the camp, saying:
'It's getting to the now-or-never stage.'