Blues were in irresistible form as Paul Furlong helped himself to a hat-trick and their unbeaten run stretched to eight games.

League Division One
Saturday 10th January 1998


Steve Bruce
Stoke, who were without a win in nine games, were stunned as Blues surged into a commanding lead with two goals by Bryan Hughes inside nine minutes.

The opener arrived in the fourth minute when Furlong crossed low from the right and Hughes flicked the ball in at the near post.

And it was soon 2-0 when Hughes cut inside Andrew Griffin and smashed a 20 yard drive inches inside Carl Muggleton's left hand post.

Blues looked dangerous every time they attacked a shambolic home defence and Nicky Forster struck their third in the 26th minute.

There appeared little danger when Forster collected the ball 25 yards out, but he skipped past a challenge from Steve Tweed to place a low shot beyond a bemused Muggleton.

Griffin then denied Blues a fourth goal when he booted the ball for a corner as Furlong threatened to convert a cross from Forster.

Stoke, in desperate search of a lifeline, mounted strong pressure as half time approached, but Steve Bruce led by example in a solid Blues rearguard.

Desperate Stoke made a double substitution at the break, bringing on Marco Gabbiadini and Ray Wallace for Paul Stewart and Kofi Nyamah.

But they went four down in the 50th minute when Hughes outjumped Tweed and Furlong hammered in the loose ball from ten yards out.

It became a rout in the 56th minute as Jon McCarthy ghosted onto a throw in from Jonathan Bass to drill an angled drive into the roof of the net.

It was too much to take for some Stoke fans with several ejected after running onto the pitch.

But worse was to follow in the 69th minute when Forster sprinted half the length of the field to lay on Furlong to fire a sixth.

And Furlong completed his hat-trick and Stoke's misery by chipping Muggleton for the seventh three minutes from time.

As the final whistle approached, Blues fans taunted the Stoke faithful by chanting the Potter's anthem "why, why, why Delilah! and at the end of the game hundreds of angry Stoke supporters staged a demonstration on the pitch chanting for the head of chairman Peter Coates, many having to be restrained by police and stewards as they attempted to storm the West Stand.

Line-Ups:

Stoke: Muggleton, Griffin, Nyamah (Wallace 45), Sigurdsson, Tweed, Keen, Forsyth, MacKenzie, Thorne, Stewart (Gabbiadini 45), Kavanagh. Subs Not Used: Whittle.

Blues: Bennett, Bass, Charlton, Bruce (Johnson 51), Ablett, Marsden, McCarthy, O'Connor, Furlong, Hughes, Forster (Ndlovu 80). Subs Not Used: Francis.

Att: 14,940

Ref: T Heilbron (Newton Aycliffe).