Marc Wilson came agonisingly close to grabbing a winner for Stoke as they played out a goalless draw with midlands rivals Aston Villa at the Britannia Stadium.
With Peter Crouch and Darren Bent unable to make their returns from illness and injury respectively, both sides lacked attacking quality in the first half, although Villa did hit the woodwork through Emile Heskey, who was subsequently forced off at half-time.
There were chances at either end as the game opened up somewhat after the interval, and Wilson almost broke the deadlock in the 69th minute when his header - from Matthew Etherington's corner - struck the underside of the bar before being bundled away by Gabriel Agbonlahor, with replays suggesting the whole of the ball was not over the line.
Heskey came agonisingly close to putting Villa ahead in the 21st minute, his header from Charles N'Zogbia's corner striking Thomas Sorensen's left-hand post with the goalkeeper well beaten.
The away team enjoyed a decent spell prior to the interval and Stiliyan Petrov blasted an effort wide following another break sparked by Ciaran Clark's thunderous challenge on Dean Whitehead.
Stoke responded, however, and Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan was forced to make a vital interception at Kenwyne Jones' feet after the Trinidadian striker had looked to get on the end of his own flick-on.
Heskey failed to emerge for the second half, so Nathan Delfouneso was introduced by Vila boss Alex McLeish.
After Carlos Cuellar had produced an important header at the back post to prevent Jonathan Walters from connecting with Ryan Shotton's cross, the substitute came close to giving Villa the lead in the 53rd minute. Agbonlahor broke clear down the left before squaring for his strike partner, but Delfouneso's toe-poked finish was blocked by Sorensen with his legs.
Villa, however, remained sporadically dangerous in open play and N'Zogbia dragged a right-footed shot wide of the near post after cutting in from the left flank.
Stoke were left cursing their luck moments later as Wilson met Etherington's centre with a firm header from 10 yards out, only to be denied by a combination of crossbar and Agbonlahor.
- Sports & Recreation
- Sports & Recreation/Soccer