Baggies suffer last-gasp defeat
ALBION looked to be signing off the season with their 16th draw of the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League campaign.
But super-sub Charlie Adam’s 87th-minute strike snatched all three points for the visitors in a game where a share of the spoils would have been fair.
Gareth McAuley’s 22nd-minute own goal put the Baggies behind but Stephane Sessegnon spared his team-mate's blushes with a leveller 11 minutes into the second half.
The latter also hit the crossbar in the second minute of the Hawthorns encounter and both sides struck the woodwork after the break – Marko Anautovic for the Potters and Youssouf Mulumbu for the Baggies.
Pepe Mel made four changes – one enforced - to his starting XI as Craig Dawson, Mulumbu, Jonas Olsson and Morgan Amalfitano came in.
Mark Hughes made three switches to his final starting line-up of the campaign as Thomas Sorensen, Ryan Shawcross and Jonathan Walters were drafted in.
The Baggies came within a whisker of taking an early lead at The Hawthorns. Graham Dorrans’ second-minute corner was nudged on by Olsson and then Dawson before Sessegnon saw his effort hit the underside of the crossbar and Glenn Whelan headed clear.
From the resultant Dorrans flag-kick, Dawson headed over when he should at least have hit the target.
The visitors looked shaky at the back and five minutes later James Morrison broke into the right-hand side of the box and pulled the ball back. Whelan could only clear to Sessegnon, who saw his goalbound strike deflected wide for a corner.
Ben Foster was caught in two minds from a long Potters punt forward in the ninth minute and that allowed Walters to nip in behind McAuley and let fly with a shot that Foster parried away at the expense of a corner.
Two minutes later, Geoff Cameron crossed from the right for Walters, who looked sure to open the scoring, but headed wide at the back post from six yards.
Dorrans had the Stoke defenders twisting and turning on 15 and was unfortunate to see Ryan Shawcross block his powerful effort from 18 yards.
City were proving more and more threatening and when Foster parried Odemwingie’s low cross from the right on 21, Albion were fortunate to see the ball fall behind Walters, allowing Dawson to clear.
Less than a minute later, Marko Arnautovic was played in behind the Baggies backline and his cut-back from the left was inadvertently turned into his own net by McAuley at the near post.
Hughes’ men broke from one end to the other in the 35th minute and McAuley had to be alert to deflect Stephen Ireland’s 20-yard strike out for a corner.
The Baggies hit back with a counter-attack of their own three minutes later but Saido Berahino just could not stretch far enough to slide home Brunt’s low left-wing ball as it flashed across the face of goal.
Morrison took matters into his own hands in the final minute of the half and Sorensen could only parry his stinging effort from 30 yards.
The hosts started the second half well and Sorensen had to react quickly to prevent Amalfitano’s cross-cum-shot dropping into the net on 47.
Six minutes later, Walters found Arnautovic in space on the edge of the area and he forced Foster into a good save low to his left.
Odemwingie cut inside dangerously from the right in the 56th minute – but lashed his 18-yard shot horribly wide of the near post.
But it was the Baggies who drew themselves level on 56 when Dorrans fed Dawson out wide on the right and he centred for Sessegnon, who produced a cool left-foot finish from 12 yards.
Within seconds, Stoke could have been back in front as Steven N’Zonzi found Arnautovic on the right-hand edge of the penalty area and he curled a shot off the outside of the far post.
It was becoming end to end and just past the hour-mark Sorensen had to fling himself to his right to hold Sessegnon’s header from Dawson’s cross.
Two minutes later, Berahino lifted the ball over the Potters defence into the path of Mulumbu, who saw his fierce strike cannon back out off the far post and out for a goal-kick.
Mel made a change shortly afterwards, with Victor Anichebe coming on for Amalfitano.
It was déjà vu on 65 as Foster dived low to his left to palm away another Arnautovic curler from the edge of the area.
Hughes made a change in the 76th minute as Odemwingie made way for Peter Crouch.
Sessegnon ran at the Potters defence three minutes later but with just Shawcross to beat to be in on goal, he knocked the ball too far ahead of himself and allowed Sorensen to gather.
Academy product Liam O’Neil came on for his Hawthorns debut on 83 as he replaced Dawson at right-back.
Morrison fed the ball into Anichebe with five minutes remaining and the former Everton man spun Shawcross before fizzing a left-foot shot just over from the edge of the box.
Albion made the fatal error of allowing substitute Charlie Adam time to shoot in the 87th minute and he picked out the bottom right-hand corner of the net from 25 yards to snatch the three points for the visitors.
ALBION (4-4-1-1): Foster; Dawson (O’Neil 83), McAuley, Olsson, Brunt (c); Dorrans, Mulumbu (Vydra 89), Morrison, Amalfitano (Ancichebe 62); Sessegnon; Berahino. Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Lugano, Yacob, Ridgewell.
STOKE (4-4-2): Sorensen; Cameron, Shawcross (c), Wilson, Muniesa; Odemwingie (Crouch 76), Whelan, Nzonzi, Arnautovic (Etherington 90); Ireland, Walters (Adam 81). Subs not used: Butland (gk), Pieters, Wilkinson, Palacios.
GOALS: ALBION – Sessegnon (56). STOKE – McAuley (og 22), Adam (87).
REFEREE: L Probert (Wiltshire).
ALBION STARMAN: Stephane Sessegnon.