Lawrence lifts Stoke

2009-04-18 18:26

Stoke - Stoke are close to securing Premier League survival after Liam Lawrence's late goal clinched a crucial 1-0 win over Blackburn on Saturday.

Tony Pulis's team moved eight points clear of the relegation zone with five games to play thanks to another impressive display at the Britannia Stadium.

Aided by the vociferous encouragement of City's fans, Stoke have turned trips to the Britannia into a daunting experience for visiting teams and this was their nine win on home soil this season.

They are almost certain to be playing top-flight soccer  next season, while Blackburn's prospects look much less palatable. Sam Allardyce's side are just one place and three points above the bottom three.

After last weekend's thrashing at Liverpool, Allardyce made three changes, restoring South African striker Benni McCarthy, Morten Gamst Pedersen and El-Hadji Diouf to the team.

Dangerously close

James Beattie, playing despite needing 12 stitches in his head against Newcastle last week, could have put Stoke ahead against one of his former clubs in only the second minute.

Rory Delap's throw was half-cleared to Glenn Whelan and Beattie deflected his effort just over.

Stoke defender Abdoulaye Faye almost gifted Rovers the lead when he tried to head Stephen Warnock's hopeful through-ball back to Thomas Sorensen. The header was dangerously close to trickling into his own net until Sorensen clutched it into his body.

In the 23rd minute, Beattie fell under Andre Ooijer's challenge as he attempted to reach Lawrence's right-wing cross, but referee Howard Webb waved away appeals for a penalty.

Stoke lost just one of their last 13 home games, and that was against Manchester United, had they threatened again when Danny Higginbotham headed wide from a Lawrence corner.

Far post

Pulis's side tested Paul Robinson early in the second half as Lawrence's dipping drive was pushed over by the England international.

Matthew Etherington then should have done better when he headed wide Lawrence's cross to the far post.
Allardyce responded by sending on Carlos Villanueva for McCarthy just before the hour.

But Stoke finally made the breakthrough in the 75th minute. Higginbotham's deep cross from the left was flicked on by Beattie to Lawrence, who showed great composure to bring the ball down, turn inside Gael Givet and fire a shot into the near post which Robinson got a hand to but could not keep out.

Allardyce pushed Christopher Samba up front and sent on David Dunn for Aaron Mokoena but Rovers had run out of time.