Our Capital One Cup run was cut short after a first half goal from Peter Crouch led Stoke City into the fourth round last night.
A superbly good start to the evening game, with Cauley Woodrow winning a free kick from Marc Wilson just nine seconds into the first half. Stoke dealt with the kick, taken by Ben Pringle, very well, and did so again when Jazz Richards crossed in on the six minute mark. Pringle's ninth minute corner proved a bit more difficult to handle, as Phil Bardsley had to come out to clear his lines, but again we applied more pressure, forcing them back on the 14th minute, when Alexander Kacaniklic passed through Erik Pieters' legs and dragged his low shot across goal, which bounced off Stoke goalie Shay Given's legs to safety.
Stoke's first attempt of the game came 19 minute in, Peter Odemwingie's 20 yard strike shot just wide of goal. We replied when McCormack broke down the left wing and crossed to Woodrow, only to find the possession of Stoke centreback Wilson. Even though we had possession over the next 10 minute of the game, our only attempt came from Saaki Mattila due to Stoke's compact defence. We paid for this deeply in the 33rd minute when Geoff Cameron fed Crouch the ball on goal, letting him finish very well from 18 yards out.
We almost replied immediately when Woodrow got a foul off Pieters and McCormack's free kick from 25 yards out hit the wall, while Kacaniklic and Pringle switched sides, leading Kacaniklic to deliver a square ball for Pringle, whose effort was scuffed in the 41st minute. Mattila's delivery was headed into the post by Burn, resulting in gasps all around the stadium before he was found to be offside, while Stoke held on until halftime as Kacaniklic crossed but found no one.
After the break, we continued to threaten the visitors with chances here and there as Richards and Kacaniklic both found space to cross, but Stoke's defence played twice as well. Pringle found his way through the centre and let his 20 yard strike rip, only to find its way over the crossbar. We continued to apply pressure in the 54th minute, when Kacaniklic powered towards the box but was sent flying after a foul, McCormack's free kick bouncing off the wall as the Stoke defence again deflected two more corners from Ben Pringle.
Odemwingie's cross nearly made its way to Crouch when the visitors made an attack, before we regained possession. Woodrow was tripped on the edge of the box in the 62nd minute and McCormack's free kick came ever so closer to the goal, skimming the crossbar. We made two changes in the 65th, bringing Lasse Vigen Christensen to the right and moving Ryan Tunniclife to the centre, while Moussa Dembele replaced Woodrow up front. McCormack and Dembele worked together for the rest of the half, and it almost paid off when Pringle's cross found the Scotsman, however his sliding effort went straight into Given's arms.
We had a golden chance with 20 minutes remaining, when Christensen's deep cross meant that Tunniclife could head across goal, but Dembele fired over with an insanely difficult-to-control volley. Richards was cut down by Crouch, who was booked for his actions, and the free kick led to a scramble which the defence cleared. As we looked for the equalizer, Ibrahim Affelay fed Odemwingie through on goal but the striker lifted his chance over the bar. Emerson Hyndman then came on to replace Mattila after 82 minutes, before Christensen's long distance shot went over Given and just wide of an almost empty goal. Stoke sub Mirko Arnautovic should have sealed the game from the edge of the box in the 89th minute, but he let his shot fly wide of the goal.
In the final three minutes of stoppage time, we tried with all our might to get an equalizer, with Pringle's deep cross finding Christensen's volley, but Given's one handed save somehow stopped it, before Burn's last-chance effort bounced off the crossbar as the whistle blew and we found ourselves out of the Capital One Cup. But hey - we still have the FA Cup to go, right?!
Our next game is against QPR on Friday. Now really, we should be able to win that one.