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Shaw comes within a leg glance of stopping the show

Shaw comes within a leg glance of stopping the show

by Simon O'Hagan of "The Times"

 

This was almost the perfect Cup tie; Stoke City, from the lower reaches of the second division, slugging it out in the mud with the best team in England and a full house of almost 32,000 responding passionately. What it needed, though, was that moment when one player - preferably from the underdogs - takes matters into his own hands and achieves glory.

 

Six minutes from the end of a towering match at the Victoria Ground on Saturday this is exactly what should have happened. The player in question was Graham Shaw, Stoke's 20-year-old substitute, who had been on the field for 10 minutes. Shaw was unmarked and standing about 10 yards into the Liverpool half of the field when Dixon, the Stoke right back, hoisted a long ball forward. Momentarily, Shaw hesitated, thinking he might be offside. But the linesman did not raise his flag.

 

Hooper, taking the injured Grobbelaar's place in the Liverpool goal, sensed the danger long before Shaw sensed his opportunity. He came charging out of the penalty area, a move that would have cost him dear had Shaw possessed just enough presence of mind to take the ball round the goalkeeper before shooting.

 

By the time Shaw had gathered the ball, Hooper was almost on him, at which point he unleashed his shot. Hooper's gamble was rewarded, for the ball ricocheted off his legs to safety and Shaw was left to agonize over what might have been.

 

The Stoke youngster cut as dignified a figure as was possible when he spoke afterwards, saying his team-mates had been very sympathetic and told him to try to forget what had happened. "But I shan't sleep tonight," he added. "I thought I might have been offside but I looked across to the linesman and he had his flag down. I knew exactly what I was doing. I just thought 'it's a chance to shoot, so shoot'."

 

Mick Mills, the Stoke manager, could hardly blame poor Shaw. It was a day to feel proud of his men, who had looked as if they might be swept aside by Liverpool in the opening 10 minutes but recovered to give them as hard a game as they can have had in their all-conquering season.

 

Stainrod was a forceful presence up front and Parkin and Morgan had chances to put Stoke ahead but were foiled by the admirable Hooper. And if Barnes, Houghton and Beardsley put together the more threatening attacks for Liverpool - at times their speed and skill on the cloying surface was quite remarkable - they were also required to do a huge amount of tackling back. In the end it all went to Liverpool's plan. Shaw's moment of glory will have to wait until another day.

Copyright - The Times

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