Stoke reach third round of Carling Cup

Cheltenham 2 Stoke 3

Cheltenham 2 Stoke 3

A drastically-altered Stoke line-up put their recent dismal Carling Cup record behind them to reach the third round after second-half goals from Glenn Whelan, Richard Cresswell and Jon Parkin.

Stoke had lost six times at the first hurdle in the competition since the turn of the century and during that period had been beaten five times by lower-graded opposition.

But they proved far too strong at Whaddon Road for their League One opponents who replied through Ashley Vincent and, deep into second-half injury-time, Alex Russell.

Stoke manager Tony Pulis indicated where his priorities lie this season by making 10 changes from the starting line-up which had gained a memorable 3-2 win over Aston Villa on Saturday with only left-back Carl Dickinson remaining.

And the substitutes bench included only two players of any senior team experience in Dominic Matteo and Jamaican international Demar Phillips.

But after a goalless first half, the visitors stepped up a gear during the second 45 minutes and ran out comfortable winners with Whelan impressive in midfield.

Cheltenham, 50 places below their opponents in the league ladder, began brightly and Ben Gill had a fierce low 20-yard drive blocked.

But Stoke soon began to settle down with their drastically revamped line-up.

Home goalkeeper Shane Higgs was called into action for the only time in the opening 45 minutes when Ryan Shawcross found himself in space some 10 yards out but his shot flew straight at the Town goalkeeper.

Then a long-range header from Jon Parkin flew only a couple of feet wide after he seized onto a right-wing centre from Cresswell.

Vincent Pericard did have the ball in the Cheltenham net after 35 minutes, after collecting a pass from Whelan, but he was adjudged offside.

Cresswell had half a chance three minutes before the interval after Pericard had managed to pick him out but he was off-balance when sending a low shot past the post.

Cheltenham made a positive start to the second period and goalkeeper Steve Simonsen was forced to palm away at full stretch a fierce cross-cum-shot from Vincent at the expense of a corner.

The game finally had some urgency about it and after 51 minutes midfielder Whelan put Stoke ahead with a pinpoint free-kick.

The danger signs were there for Cheltenham when Pericard was brought down 20 yards out in a central position by Shane Duff.

Up stepped Whelan and his curling free-kick beat the despairing dive of Higgs and flew into the top corner of the net.

Then three minutes later a route one piece of football saw Stoke double their lead.

Simonsen’s long clearance was flicked on by Pericard and Cresswell outpaced 38-year-old Jerry Gill before slipping the ball past Higgs.

But Cheltenham refused to buckle and in the 57th minute they were given a lifeline by Vincent who slipped the ball around Lewis Buxton and then drilled a low shot past Simonsen via the left-hand post.

Craig Armstrong became the first player to be yellow-carded for a challenge on Cresswell.

Substitute Andy Gallinagh produced an important challenge to deny Cresswell the chance of a second goal after he had cut inside the Cheltenham box.

But Parkin ensured victory for Stoke when he converted a left-wing cross by Pugh with 12 minutes remaining.

Russell scored with a rasping 20-yard drive seconds before the final whistle for Cheltenham.

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