Belfast Telegraph

Stoke on the brink after dropping points against Burnley

The Potters are four points from safety with only three games remaining.

Stoke’s grip on their Premier League status loosened significantly as they could only take a point from a self-proclaimed must-win clash with Burnley at the bet 365 Stadium.

Potters boss Paul Lambert had targeted three wins from their last four games to ensure their 10-year stay in the top flight continued but, with a trip to Liverpool to come next weekend followed by matches against fellow strugglers Crystal Palace and Swansea, that now appears hugely unlikely.

There was again no shortage of effort from the hosts, who have not won since Lambert’s first game in January, and they deserved the lead given to them by Badou Ndiaye’s first goal for the club in the 11th minute.

But Ashley Barnes scored a scrappy equaliser 17 minutes after half-time and Stoke had to settle for a 1-1 draw that leaves them four points adrift of safety.

Peter Crouch compared the disappointment of scoring what he thought was the winner against West Ham on Monday only for Andy Carroll to equalise to England missing out on qualification for Euro 2008 but he earned a recall to the starting XI along with Glen Johnson.

Burnley were unchanged for a third successive match – James Tarkowski having overcome a knock – and looking for three points that would all but clinch seventh place.

Lambert talked in the build-up about the need to get back the reputation for hard graft that served Tony Pulis’ Stoke side so well, and he would have been delighted with their start.

Pressing Burnley high and not allowing their opponents any time on the ball, Stoke got their reward when Ndiaye combined with Mame Biram Diouf on the edge of the box and then flashed a 20-yard shot into the bottom corner via a deflection off Kevin Long.

In the 17th minute the home fans showed their appreciation for captain and number 17 Ryan Shawcross, who it was revealed this week played against West Ham the day after the sudden death of his father.

Long bailed out Ashley Westwood with a fine, last-ditch tackle on Diouf after the midfielder had given the ball away, and Burnley nearly found an equaliser in the 35th minute when Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s free-kick was expertly pushed around the post by Jack Butland.

But it was Stoke who should have gone into half-time two up after Xherdan Shaqiri and Moritz Bauer combined brilliantly down the right. The latter’s cross appeared perfect for Diouf in space 10 yards out but he could not control the ball.

Lambert sprinted onto the pitch when the whistle blew to put an arm round his striker and ensure the positive vibe remained but it was Burnley who began the second half strongly and Stoke were again grateful to Butland for an excellent reflex save to keep out Tarkowski’s header.

The England keeper pulled off an even better stop when Tarkowski got his head to a superb cross from Westwood in the 62nd minute but Butland could not claw away the rebound and Barnes bundled home his 10th goal of the season.

Stoke tried to respond and Shawcross headed wide before, with two minutes of normal time remaining, substitute Stephen Ireland curled an effort against the outside of the post with Nick Pope beaten.

It could have got worse for the Potters with Gudmundsson three times coming close to an injury-time winner, and the final whistle saw several Stoke players slumped on the turf.

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