Substitute Nick Powell salvages late point for Stoke against Birmingham
Substitute Nick Powell spared Stoke’s blushes as they snatched a late 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham.
Skipper Harlee Dean looked to have won it for the visitors at the bet365 Stadium when he netted his first goal for 10 months.
But former Manchester United forward Powell emerged from the bench to bundle home fellow sub Tyrese Campbell’s cross with just four minutes remaining.
Dean’s 65th-minute header from an Ivan Sanchez cross had come against the run of play with Stoke having dominated large portions of the match.
But Powell was on hand to bag his first goal of the season as the hosts made it four games unbeaten across all competitions. His close-range shot deflected off Dean to make sure of a share of the points.
Stoke boss Michael O’Neill admitted pre-match his players would be “disappointed” as he made seven changes to his starting XI that beat Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup last 16 in midweek.
But Birmingham manager Aitor Karanka made just one change to his team which drew 1-1 at home to Rotherham last time out. Jon Toral started up top while Scott Hogan dropped to the bench.
And Karanka’s decision to stick with his proven performers worked well as they frustrated the hosts.
Sanchez blasted wide after only six minutes with the first chance of the match.
However, the Spaniard’s side nearly paid the penalty for some slack defending as striker Steven Fletcher went close to firing Stoke ahead.
The Scottish marksman fired inches wide of the left post having been given too much time on the edge of the penalty area. And soon after he struck the angle of the crossbar and post with a thunderous free-kick.
Left-back Kristian Pedersen was the culprit, having needlessly upended Fletcher in a dangerous position.
However, chances were few and far between in the opening 45 minutes, especially for Birmingham who failed to register a shot on target.
The Potters created another chance in first-half stoppage time, but striker Lee Gregory headed over from a Sam Clucas free-kick, directed into his path by centre-back Harry Souttar.
Stoke skipper Clucas was in the thick of the action six minutes after the restart. His corner was met by James Chester, but the defender’s goal-bound header was flicked over the bar by Lukas Jutkiewicz.
Jutkiewicz had a chance of his own as Birmingham countered well, but his snapshot was well wide of the target.
And then the goal arrived, but it was not for Stoke who had forced the pace for much of the match.
Sanchez whipped in a delightful corner and defender Dean outjumped Chester to power a header into the top-left corner.
It was only the third time Stoke had conceded this season in eight matches, with keeper Adam Davies having held an enviable record of six clean sheets in seven games.
But Powell’s late goal made sure Stoke avoided defeat on their own patch.