When facing a top-flight team I usually hope for just one thing; avoidance of embarrassment. Or, as it’s known round here, ‘another Bolton’.
In 2007 Rovers were ruthlessly dumped out of the FA Cup third round by Wanderers and so when Stoke took the lead on 15 minutes – Aaron Taylor-Sinclair getting the wrong side of Joselu who crossed for Peter Crouch to tap home – the spectre of history repeating itself loomed large.
Rovers though did not roll over; instead they hit back instantly. Luke McCullough finding space and pace where no-one expected it carried the ball from his own half to the Stoke area where he squared for Nathan Tyson to prod home at the second attempt. Deserved parity that would be maintained until the break.
In the second half Rovers again went at City but were once more undone by a defensive error. Seconds after saving brilliantly from Mame Diouf, Thorsten Stuckmann shanked a goal-kick straight to Crouch and though his effort was blocked the ball fell to Jonathan Walters who fired in emphatically from 25 yards.
Walters would go close again, stretching to meet a far post cross, but the game’s latter chances went largely Rovers way as they pushed for an equaliser and what would’ve been a deserved replay. Andy Butler glanced a header onto the bar; Tyson hooked over from Gary McKenzie’s knock-down and then, right at the death Butler hurled himself at one last chance, only for his diving header to clear the bar.
by Glen Wilson