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Page last updated at 19:21 GMT, Sunday, 13 March 2011

Sunday football as it happened


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By Sam Lyon

1915: And that's that, my good people. Congrats to Stoke and Man City, commiserations to West Ham and Reading, and a good luck to the fans of all four FA Cup semi-finalists who face a 150-mile journey to Wembley on the weekend of 16/17 April. Ouch. I - Sam Lyon - am back on Tuesday for the Champions League, involving Man Utd, and a host of lower league action, so please join me then. See ya!

OptaJoe on Twitter: "1977 - Last instance of all 4 FA Cup semi-finalists coming from north of Nottingham (Man Utd, Leeds, Liverpool, Everton). History."

Keith in Lincoln via text: "As a Bolton fan yesterday I was just thrilled at a Wembley day out. Now those long since banished thoughts are niggling to the front of my consciousness. An FA Cup it really possible?"

Chief football writer Phil McNulty reports:
"Tense and unconvincing, but Man City ultimately deserve the win that sets up that FA Cup semi-final meeting with Man Utd. No more heroics, but Brian McDermott's Reading once again did themselves great credit."

Peter Shuttleworth reports:
"A Gray day for Cardiff City's Premier League promotion push as Andy Gray strikes twice to secure Barnsley a valuable Championship point. A host of missed chances cost Cardiff, but by how much, we'll only know at the end of the season."

1905: STOKE 2-1 WEST HAM
Chris Bevan reports:
"Stoke are on their way to Wembley after edging a pulsating Cup tie containing stacks of drama and a plenty of controversy. West Ham have a relegation battle to look forward to."

1902: Anyway, time to hear from our match reporters...

1900: Now then, the draw for the FA Cup semi-final also has another connotation... by our calculations, it looks very unlikely that sixth place will now be good enough for Europa League qualification. We think Bolton or Stoke are guaranteed a Europe League place courtesy of an FA Cup final appearance, provided their opponent - Man City or Man Utd - finishes in the top six of the Premier League. Now, England get an extra place in the Europa League if Man City or Liverpool win it, only if they don't qualify by some other means (i.e fifth place takes precedent over winning Europa League), while there is, of course, an extra Europa League place for the team that wins the Fair Play League. But, as it stands, you'll need to finish top five if you want to qualify for Europe this season. We, erm, think.

1855: Micah Richards on ESPN: "It was a very difficult, as the game went on it got harder. Reading did well, they defended well. Fortunately the header went in. It was a lot harder with having the game last week [in Kiev]. We were a bit tired and leggy but we got through and that was the important thing. All the boys are thrilled." Vincent Kompany: "Credit to them, they gave us a hard time. We had a lot of chances so I think it's a fair result. Today we did the job after a difficult game in the Ukraine. There is no easy way to the final - we are happy to play United, we are looking forward to it."

1852: Another note on that Man City-Man Utd clash, by the way... those two teams have only ever met in an FA Cup semi-final once before, in 1926, when City won 3-0. They then went on to face Bolton in the final... and lose. Omens?

CityMoltenLight on Twitter: "I think it's fair to say that whoever wins the Man Utd-Man City semi will be favourites to win the final."
I'd love to hear Bolton and Stoke fans' thoughts on that...

1846: That semi-final against Man Utd, by the way, will be Man City's first appearance in an FA Cup last-four clash since 1981. Tasty.

1843: It was a brave effort from Reading, but in the end Man City edge deservedly into the FA Cup semi-final and a potentially mouth-watering clash with cross-city rivals United at Wembley. Anyone like to call that one for me?

Full time
1841: FULL-TIME Man City 1-0 Reading

1839: Man City seeing this game out now. Dedryck Boyata comes on to replace Shaun Wright-Phillips.

1836: We'll have four added minutes.

1835: Hhmmm... maybe not. Since I wrote that Man City have barely allowed Reading a touch. Into the last minute.

1832: Do I detect a touch of nerves about Man City? Brian Howard, just on as a substitute, swings over a corner that bobbles around the City area and is just about hacked clear with Simon Church poised to pounce from close range. Less than four minutes of normal time left.

1829: Man City force some space of their own in response, though, Yaya Toure pinging a stinging effort at goal from range - the ball straight at Reading keeper Alex McCarthy.

1828: And that's half a chance for the visitors there, Brynar Gunnarsson flicking Ian Harte's free-kick from deep wide of Joe Hart's far post. OK, well, maybe quarter of a chance.

1826: Moving towards the last 10 minutes at Eastlands... and Reading look like they're going to launch a late rally here...

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "Man City deserve the lead on balance of play, but how they needed it to lift the growing anxiety around Eastlands. Reading boss Brian McDermott turned away in dejection as his defiant defence was finally broken."

1823: For now it comes in the form of an away substitution, Noel Hunt replaced by Simon Church.

1822: We have 15 minutes remaining - do Reading have a response?

Man City goal: Breakthrough. David Silva's corner is a beauty but Micah Richards still has plenty to do - and he does it brilliantly, attacking the ball with real intent and powering an unstoppable header home.

1820: GOALFLASH Man City 1-0 Reading (Richards)

1818: It would appear Mario Balotelli is going to roam the left flank and Carlos Tevez the right, while Shaun Wright-Phillips plays down the middle. Eh?

1815: Here he comes, then, presumably dosed up on antihistamines, Mario Balotelli is on for Man City - the anonymous Patrick Vieira the man replaced.

1814: Reading chance! It's a fine counter from the Championship side, too, Jimmy Kebe breaking down the right and his pass in-field helped on to Shane Long in the Man City box, but the Irishman's effort is a touch scuffed and Joe Hart is able to get down to gather.

1812: One man who will be able to leave Eastlands with his head held high whatever the result today is Alex McCarthy, the Reading keeper again coming to the visitors' rescue, tipping Micah Richards's bounce header over from Aleksandar Kolarov's corner.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "Manchester City still probing and pushing for the breakthrough without success. How long before Roberto Mancini contemplates the introduction of Edin Dzeko or Mario Balotelli?"

1809: That's a bit of a blow for Reading - Jobi McAnuff has to be replaced, presumably because of a lack of fitness, Hal Robson-Kanu the man coming on for the visitors.

1807: Man City knock on the door once more without answer - Yaya Toure wriggling free down the left and then, at the second attempt, firing across goal, Reading keeper Alex McCarthy punching away.

1804: If by 'nice things' you mean non-stop frustration and consistent criticism. Obviously.

1803: I'll tell you who's loving this Man City performance, though. ESPN's co-commentator Craig Burley. Nothing but nice to say about the boys in blue today, the Scot, nothing.

1802: Blimey, even Carlos Tevez is having an off day. Shaun Wright-Phillips latches on to a ricochet to break free of the Reading defence and he lays it back to Tevez... who fluffs his effort from 16 yards.

Yellow card
1759: Man City defender Micah Richards goes into the referee's notebook for a clattering challenge on Jobi McAnuff.

1758: He was their one bright spark in the first half and it's David Silva again causing problems - the Spaniard dancing into some space in the box before feeding Carlos Tevez, the Argentine's attempted flick finish hitting his standing foot and allowing Alex McCarthy to claim in the Reading goal.

1756: Decent from Reading. Jimmy Kebe charges into the opposition half and, with the Man City defence back-pedalling, releases Noel Hunt in the home box only for the Reading striker's effort to slice wide. Encouragement for the Championship side, though.

1753: So close! Aleksandar Kolarov finally gets a delivery right for Man City and his corner looks to have 'goal' written all over it as it is inadvertently flicked at his own goal by Reading striker Shane Long... but Jay Tabb stoops to head it off the Royals line.

1752: Here we go then, City get us restarted. Man City 0-0 Reading.

1750: The players are out and about - but with the second half yet to begin, they're being outshone by a freestyler on the Eastlands sidelines. Someone sign that boy up and stick him on... please...

1745: Right, one more half of football left in the day - one final push folks? Tweet the commentary via the hashtag #BBCFootball, ask me a question direct @sampatricklyon or text me via 81111 (UK).

playedoutscenes on Twitter: "Good performance from the boys in black and red. Frustrating City despite a totally makeshift backline."

Tom in Gateshead via text: "I think Reading deserve some credit for forcing City to have to shoot from distance. Getting in 0-0 at half time is great for the Royals, and I'm far too nervous to be bored!"
Oh absolutely. I just expected more from Man City.

Half time
1737: HALF-TIME Man City 0-0 Reading
Chief football writer Phil McNulty's HT snap-shot:
"Man City dominating and creating the best chances, with David Silva prominent, but Reading boss Brian McDermott will be delighted with his side's application and the fact that they have survived so far."

1735: There's the half-time whistle.

1732: And now David Silva skews wide from outside the area. Even the perky Spaniard is being dragged into the mire. Gawd help us.

1730: Yaya Toure shoots from way out - it's off target. Ho hum.

1729: It has to be said, David Silva aside, this game has been decidedly average. If that.

1728: Man City end a brief spell of possession from Reading and burst forward on the break - but Yaya Toure, Carlos Tevez and Shaun Wright-Phillips are all guilty of trying to over-play in the box and the visitors clear.

1724: Oh that's almost lovely. David Silva shows fine control and an excellent clip over the Reading defender to earn a shooting chance inside the Royals' box - but his shot is straight at Alex McCarthy. Would've been a top goal with the right finish.

1720: Another David Silva break, this time combining with the irrepressible Carlos Tevez, and Royals keeper Alex McCarthy is again forced to turn the ball behind from the Spaniard's attempted centre. City settling now.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "Manchester City fans just starting to vent their frustration at Eastlands, as is captain Carlos Tevez - he exchanges words with Nigel de Jong, presumably demanding more urgency and better service."

1716: Reading's bright start is starting to falter a touch now - and it's no coincidence Man City's rise coincides with David Silva's increased involvement. This time the Spaniard's ball over the top releases Yaya Toure in behind the Royals' defence but the midfielder's uncompromising effort is straight at the keeper and beaten away by Alex McCarthy in the visitors' goal.

1714: And now a free-kick 30 yards out for the hosts... but Aleksandar Kolarov's effort is high, wide and not very handsome.

1712: Better again from Man City as David Silva slices the Reading defence open with a delightful through-ball into the path of Shaun Wright-Phillips in the box, but the winger fires into the side netting.

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "Uneventful opening - but Reading will be more than happy with that. Brian McDermott's side have settled well to make it a frustrating first 20 minutes for Manchester City. No real rhythm as yet at Eastlands."

Yellow card
1707: Excellent refereeing, that, by Lee Probert - the official taking the chance of a break in play to go back and book City defender Vincent Kompany for a reckless foul on Noel Hunt a few minutes ago.

1706: Whenever City have Carlos Tevez in their side, though, they'll always be a threat - and the Argentine creates the hosts' first chance, laying in Shaun Wright-Phillips whose lashed shot is parried by Alex McCarthy, the Reading keeper recovering well to deny David Silva on the follow-up.

1703: And they've forced a half-chance there as Jobi McAnuff's cross finds Noel Hunt at the back post, the Reading striker's header drifting over, though, as the frontman had to twist to reach it.

1701: Not the most explosive of matches at Eastlands so far but Reading will be happy enough with the opening exchanges, the Championship outfit seeing plenty of the ball.

Full time
1658: FULL-TIME Cardiff 2-2 Barnsley

1657: Man City's turn for a corner... but it's wasted by Aleksandar Kolarov, drifted over everyone.

1654: Reading have started this quarter-final tie in lively fashion at Eastlands, that's for sure, and Jobi McAnuff's cross from the left causes the odd alarm before it is forced behind for a corner. The set piece comes to nothing, however.

Peter Shuttleworth reports: "Cardiff City's lead lasted just a few minutes as Andy Gray punished some lacklustre Bluebirds defending to head Barnsley level for the second time. The Scottish striker scored his second of the afternoon, stooping to conquer Jacob Butterfield's cross as the Barnsley subs combined to hurt complacent Cardiff."
Cardiff 2-2 Barnsley

1650: Plenty for these two sides to live up to after the Stoke-West Ham cracker of earlier, then... and Noel Hunt is already spilling blood for the cause after a whack to the face. That's dedication, that is.

1647: We are up and running at Eastlands.

Peter Shuttleworth reports: "Cardiff City have been rewarded for their intense pressure on the Barnsley back-line as Dekel Keinan heads the promorion chasers in front. Jay Bothroyd and Craig Bellamy missed great chances but Cardiff's star-studded strike-force were shown how to do it by Israeli defender who heads in Chris Burke's cross. Only minutes left here."
Cardiff 2-1 Barnsley

1644: Here come the players, we're moments away from kick-off.

1642: MAN CITY v READING (1645 GMT)
Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Eastlands:
"Man City have captain Carlos Tevez in attack in their starting line-up and the return of Nigel de Jong in midfield is a big bonus for coach Roberto Mancini. Mario Balotelli, who apparently suffered from an allergy to grass in the Europa League defeat away to Dynamo Kiev, is on the bench - alongside Edin Dzeko and Gareth Barry. Reading are struggling in defence with centre-back Matt Mills out injured so midfielder Brynjar Gunnarsson will drop into the back four. Jem Karacan, also a midfielder, will play at right-back with Jobi McAnuff skipper."

1640: Reading boss Brian McDermott on ESPN: "Coming here, against a fantastic manager, we can't wait to get started. We have got a real good group - but I've never enjoyed a game yet that we have lost. We have got a gameplan and it's important we pass the ball well."

BBC Sport's Andy McKenzie on Twitter: "Unless Reading beat Man City, we'll have four teams all travelling 150+ miles to play FA Cup semis at Wembley."

1636: Man City assistant boss Brian Kidd on ESPN: "We are not thinking about the semi-final. We've got a hard job here today, we have to get through this, then we can talk about Man Utd. The mood is good. We have got to take the initiative now, we are at home. It's up to us to get a good result. It's going to be a tough game - Brian McDermott has got them up for it and they will be well motivated."

Bill via text: "As a Reading fan I'm glad we get to knock both Manchester clubs out."

JamesGreen94 on Twitter: "Are people just forgetting that City have to beat Reading then?"
Judging by the majority of texts/Tweets I'm getting... yep!

1630: MAN CITY v READING (1645 GMT)
Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Eastlands:
"Man City hope to follow Man Utd to Wembley as they take on Reading in the FA Cup quarter-final at Eastlands. Boss Roberto Mancini, with fresh speculation linking Jose Mourinho to his job this morning, will be desperate for victory after a 2-0 defeat away to Dynamo Kiev left them with an uphill task in the Europa League. Brian McDermott's Reading may be rank outsiders but City beware - the Royals' win at Everton in the fifth round should provide the warning signals."

Moston Red via text: "Re: A Man City fan - don't worry, we feel the same way! Bolton would've been ideal. Ah well, such is life."

Chief football writer Phil McNulty at Eastlands: "Fair to say there has not exactly been rejoicing from Man City fans around us at Eastlands on hearing the FA Cup semi-final draw."

1623: MAN CITY v READING (1645 GMT)
Man City:
Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, De Jong, Vieira, Toure Yaya, Wright-Phillips, Tevez, Silva. Subs: Taylor, Dzeko, Barry, Jo, Boyata, Balotelli, Razak.
Reading: McCarthy, Tabb, Gunnarsson, Khizanishvili, Harte, Kebe, Karacan, Leigertwood, McAnuff, Long, Hunt. Subs: Andersen, Griffin, Antonio, Church, Robson-Kanu, Howard, Taylor.
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire)

1620: Right, with 20 minutes until kick-off, and with the prospect of a semi-final against Manchester United now revealed... let's focus on Manchester City v Reading shall we?

chazzer96 on Twitter: "Man Utd and Man City fans groan, Trotters and Potters fans celebrate. Irony!"

A Man City fan via text: "I'm sure the draws are rigged - why oh why do we always get Man Utd in the semi?! Assuming we get through."

Tony_1976 on Twitter: "The draw is unfair on Reading as gives Man City more incentive. Draw should have taken place after last match."
I must agree. Don't see the sense in making the draw before the Man City-Reading match is concluded.

1613: Stoke match-winner Danny Higginbotham on ITV: "West Ham are a great team but I think we thoroughly deserved it. It's [the controversial incidents in the game] not something you want to talk about as a player. The referees probably get enough criticism but we are delighted to get a result and we are going to Wembley. We have got great belief - and now a very tough tie [against Bolton]."

Chris Bevan at the Britannia Stadium: "HUGE cheers at the Britannia as the Stoke fans hear they've got Bolton in the semis."

Ties to be played the weekend of 16-17 April

1605: Deep breaths all round, the semi-final draw is coming up...

tomspray93 on Twitter: "RE: Stoke v West Ham - Worst. Ref. Ever."
This does appear to be the consensus of opinion. Sorry Mike Jones.

Half time
Peter Shuttleworth reports: "It's half-time at the Cardiff City Stadium - and Peter Whittingham's wonder goal has been a rare highlight in a poor half. Cardiff's lead, however, lasted just eight minutes before Andy Gray's effort deservedly equalised for battling Barnsley. Tykes striker Marlon Harewood hit the Cardiff post before Cardiff's Craig Bellamy had a penalty appeal turned down."
Cardiff City 1-1 Barnsley

Full time
1557: FULL-TIME Stoke 2-1 West Ham
That's it! Stoke reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since 1972. Deservedly, too, if you ask me - but what a tie it was at the Britannia. Pulsating.

1555: Last minute of injury time. Have West Ham got drama left in them?

Yellow card
1553: Immediate impact from Ricardo Fuller - on referee Mike Jones' notebook, the striker receiving a yellow card for a foul on Wayne Bridge. Danny Collins is on for Matthew Etherington for Stoke.

1552: Ricardo Fuller is on for Stoke in place of Kenwyne Jones. We'll have four minutes of nervy, tense, nail-biting stoppage time.

1551: Low shot from Carlton Cole, cutting in from the right, scrambled behind by Thomas Sorensen.

Chris Bevan at the Britannia Stadium: "A really nervous finale here for Stoke fans. West Ham are throwing the kitchen sink at this one to try to force a replay that two relegation-threatened teams definitely do not need."

1549: Stoke looking to play a spot of keep-ball now - but West Ham pinch it and launch forward. More tense than a campsite now.

Someone has struck the woodwork
1548: Close! In fact, it barely gets closer without being a goal. Thomas Hitzlsperger swings over a corner and Matthew Upson thumps a cracking header at goal - only for it to crash back off the bar with the keeper beaten. Big let-off for Stoke.

Carlos Tevez, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Nigel de Jong all start for Man City against Reading in their quarter-final tie, kick-off 1645.

1545: Another minute, another moment of controversy. James Tomkins thinks he has a big claim for a penalty when he is man-handled to the ground by Stoke striker Jon Walters from a free-kick, but referee Mike Jones gives it the other way. Who'd be a referee?

1543: We're into the last 10 minutes at the Britannia Stadium - where has the time gone? - and Zavon Hines is on for Mark Noble for West Ham. Dean Whitehead replaces Jermaine Pennant for the hosts.

1540: Penalty appeals from West Ham now - Robbie Keane is convinced - but looks like ref Mike Jones got that one right as the ball hit Stoke defender Robert Huth on the knee, rather than hand.

1538: Finally West Ham string together a move of real note - and Thomas Sorensen has to be sharp to turn Robbie Keane's near-post effort around the post from Manuel da Costa's low cross. Are the visitors starting to build a head of steam?

Blackburn striker Jason Roberts on BBC Radio 5 Live: "Their lead is nothing less than Stoke have deserved. They've bossed both halves and been fantastic. West Ham have some choices to make now because Carlton Cole has hardly troubled the Stoke defence with the service he has had."

1535: Stoke still looking the likelier to score at the Britannia - though they did when West Ham grabbed their first equaliser. Jermaine Pennant could perhaps do a touch better with a firm effort that flies wide of the visitors' goal.

Chris Bevan at the Britannia Stadium: "Work to do for West Ham again here after that Danny Higginbotham thunderbolt. Their fans have gone quiet for the first time this afternoon, and manager Avram Grant has retreated back into his dug-out to consider his next move - apart from that Victor Obinna effort his side have hardly threatened."

Peter Shuttleworth reports: "Substitute Andy Gray levels for Barnsley at the Cardiff City Stadium as the striker fires past Cardiff keeper Stephen Bywater after a nod down by strike partner Marlon Harewood."
Cardiff City 1-1 Barnsley

1530: That's Victor Obinna's last involvement of the match, the forward replaced by Robbie Keane.

1529: Chance for West Ham, great save by Thomas Sorensen. Victor Obinna turns on Thomas Hitzlsperger's lay-off and crashes a shot at goal from the angle, Sorensen turning it over the bar on the stretch.

Peter Shuttleworth reports: "Peter Whittingham scores a sensational 25-yard left-foot volley to give Cardiff City a 1-0 lead in their Championship clash against Barnsley. "That is the goal of the season, no doubt about it," said BBC Radio Wales pundit Iwan Roberts. "Two goalkeepers wouldn't have saved that."
Cardiff City 1-0 Barnsley

1527: A controversial West Ham equaliser, a disputed penalty, a debatable handball that leads to Stoke's second... referee Mike Jones is sure to find himself under the spotlight at full-time from whichever side loses this one, you feel.

Stoke goal: It's a first FA Cup goal for Danny Higginbotham and Stoke lead again. West Ham are not happy about the award of the free-kick for a handball in the wall - but Higginbotham cares not as he slams it through the wall, low, and even though Rob Green gets a hand to it the power sees it home.

1524: GOALFLASH Stoke 2-1 West Ham (Higginbotham)

1522: Stoke winger Jermaine Pennant thumps a free-kick goalwards from 30 yards out... it hits an arm in the West Ham wall and the hosts will have another go from the edge of the area...

1519: ...and Carlton Cole is forced to scramble away from the West Ham line after Ryan Shawcross' nod-back is header goalwards by Kenwyne Jones. Good work from the Hammers striker.

1518: Stoke still just about edging things at the Britannia, but it's just been a bit of a midfield battle in the last few minutes. Stoke have a corner here, though...

Chris Bevan at the Britannia Stadium: "What a penalty save that was by West Ham keeper Rob Green - no wonder the Hammers fans are now chanting 'England's number one'."

mancitybean on Twitter: "That's 1-1 in wrong decisions."

Blackburn striker Jason Roberts on BBC Radio 5 Live: "Stoke have started the second half like the first and West Ham are going to find it hard. Apart from that dubious goal, the visitors have not really offered anything."

1512: Stoke, unbowed, continue to press and a couple of fierce crosses into the box from Jermaine Pennant are well cleared by the Hammers defence. This being played at 100mph and then some.

Someone has won a penalty
Missed penalty: Deary me, what a start to the half. Mike Jones takes centre stage again as the referee gives a penalty when Matthew Etherington goes down under Scott Parker's challenge in the box after a burst straight from the kick-off. Just as in the first half, for me he's got it wrong - it looked a dive. Robert Green, however, pulls off a super stop to his left from Etherington's spot-kick, and we remain level.

1508: MISSED PENALTY, STOKE (Etherington)


1507: The hosts kick off the second half, Stoke 1-1 West Ham.

1505: And here come the players ahead of the restart at the Britannia Stadium - with an FA Cup semi-final spot very much either side's to grab here.

1501: We are under way in Wales, Cardiff v Barnsley.

MackemAB on Twitter: "Umm am I the only one who thinks it came off Frederic Piquionne's shoulder?"
Apparently not mate. Can't say I agree, though it was close.

Infostrada Sports: "West Ham are still to lose a match in which Frederic Piquionne has scored in all competitions this season - today's was his ninth this term."

Peter Shuttleworth reports:
"Dave Jones names an unchanged side as his Cardiff City look to recover from successive Championship defeats against Barnsley today. And the Premier League promotion hopefuls have an extra incentive as the Bluebirds could move into second with victory at the Cardiff City Stadium. Irish defender Paul McShane plays for Barnsley, who have won just once away in four months, despite breaking his nose in midweek against Scunthorpe."

Scott_Damien on Twitter: "I don't care if it was handball if it makes a more entertaining match. As long as who deserves to win, wins."

Bywater, McNaughton, Hudson, Keinan, Quinn, Whittingham, McPhail, Emmanuel-Thomas, Bellamy, Chopra, Bothroyd. Subs: Brown, Rae, Gyepes, Burke, Parkin, Olofinjana, Blake.
Barnsley: Steele, McEveley, Shackell, Trippier, McShane, Doyle, Mellis, Arismendi, Hill, Haynes, Harewood. Subs: Preece, O'Brien, Lovre, Devaney, Butterfield, Gray, Bennett.
Referee: Russell Booth (Nottinghamshire)

1453: Well that just flew by didn't it? And there's no time to draw breath, Cardiff-Barnsley kicks off in a bit...

Half time
1451: HALF-TIME Stoke 1-1 West Ham
Chris Bevan's HT snap-shot:
"Referees don't exactly need any more bad press this week, do they? But, with apologies to Mike Jones, he has had an absolute shocker in allowing Frederic Piquionne's equaliser for West Ham to stand. All to play for."

1450: And that's your half-time whistle.

1449: We're well into stoppage time but still Stoke are still sniffing a goal, Robert Green this time scrambling away under pressure from Jon Walters from Rory Delap's cut-back from the byeline.

Yellow card
1448: Glenn Whelan is the victim again as he is chopped down by Manuel Costa, the Hammers defender straight into the book.

1446: Ooh... long throw attempt from Rory Delap... defended well. And another... defended well again, punched away by Robert Green. Once bitten, twice shy from the Hammers there.

1444: It's ambitious but unusually the wrong option from Scott Parker as the in-form midfielder tries his luck at goal from all of 40 yards - the ball flying well wide - when West Ham were well set up on the counter attack.

Yellow card
1441: It's all a bit spicy at the Britannia now as Hammers midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger receives the game's second yellow card for a late tackle on Glenn Whelan.

Chris Bevan at the Britannia Stadium: "Angry scenes at the Britannia as Stoke's players confront the referee Mike Jones and the home fans berate the officials for what, from where I am sitting, appeared a fairly blatant use of an arm by Frederic Piquionne as he controlled Thomas Hitzlsperger's long ball before scoring an unlikely West Ham equaliser. Everyone else in the stadium saw it too, I think. I'm not sure how, but the goal stands - that was the Hammers' first meaningful attack as well."

1437: Frederic Piquionne, feeling his leg, can't continue - Jonathan Spector, and not Robbie Keane surprisingly, is his replacement.

Blackburn striker Jason Roberts on BBC Radio 5 Live: "It was definitely handball and when the referee watches that back he's going to definitely be disappointed. I think the linesman was on the other side so probably didn't see it. Credit to Piquionne, he made a fantastic run."

1435: Tony Pulis continues to spout blood and thunder in the direction of referee Michael Jones from the touchlines, but he's not going to change his mind now. Frederic Piquionne, meanwhile, is struggling after receiving an injury during that goal.

West Ham goal: It's completely against the run of play - and almost certainly handball - but West Ham are level. Thomas Hitzlsperger clips a brilliant ball over the Stoke defence from deep and Frederic Piquionne, with his arm, brings it down before clipping home. Stoke are incandescent but the goal stands.

1431: GOALFLASH Stoke 1-1 West Ham (Piquionne)

1429: Nearly half an hour gone at the Britannia Stadium and still West Ham have yet to settle. At all. Plenty of time to go, though.

Yellow card
1424: Victor Obinna - harshly for me - goes into the book for a high foot on Danny Higginbotham. Hilariously, though, the Hammers man screams in agony for fully 30 seconds on the floor following the challenge, before - miracle or miracles - bouncing up to contest his yellow card. Instant recovery.

Blackburn striker Jason Roberts on BBC Radio 5 Live: "You don't get many chances to play in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and West Ham look like they have a few nerves out there. Stoke, though, have taken to it like a duck to water."

1422: Kenwyne Jones, now, gets in behind the Hammers defence but his cross just eludes the onrushing Jon Walters in the box.

1420: More good work down the left from Matthew Etherington, though the Stoke winger's cross is a touch overhit and Robert Green is able to collect over the head of Kenwyne Jones. The Hammers full-backs getting a bit of the run-around here.

Chris Bevan at the Britannia Stadium: "The presence of Jermaine Pennant and Matty Etherington on either wing gives Stoke a whole new attacking threat but their opening goal shows set-pieces are still meat and drink to Potters boss Tony Pulis. You would think West Ham might have practised dealing with Rory Delap throws, but maybe not. Stoke get their reward for an extremely positive start."

1417: West Ham are looking to get on the ball following that Robert Huth opener - but, seriously, did they not think to mark the big 6'3" defender from a Rory Delap throw? Schoolboy.

Stoke goal: No prizes for guessing its creation - from a long Rory Delap throw - but Robert Huth's header is a thumping one and Robert Green has no chance. The German was completely - utterly - unmarked six yards out. Hhmm.

1413: GOALFLASH Stoke 1-0 West Ham (Huth)

Blackburn striker Jason Roberts on BBC Radio 5 Live: "If Stoke keep putting in balls for Jones and Walters then West Ham are going to have problems."

1410: ...but it's defended well by the hosts and, on the back of a throw-in, is shuffled behind for a goal kick.

1409: Here, though, West Ham get themselves a corner...

1408: Stoke are looking a real threat down the wings so far. Both Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant seeing plenty of the ball.

1407: My word, Tony Pulis's recent rallying cry to the Stoke fans seems to have had the desired effect - I can barely hear myself think here. And I'm hundreds of miles away. Good work from both sets of supporters at the Britannia.

1404: It's a blistering start from the hosts at a jumping Britannia Stadium - and moments after Jon Walters narrowly fails to get on the end of a Jermaine Pennant cross, the winger finds Matthew Etherington bursting into the box, Hammers keeper Robert Green beating his header away. Fine save.

1402: West Ham get us up and running...

Chris Bevan at the Britannia Stadium: "No need to worry about empty seats at the Britannia Stadum - it looks like Stoke has caught Cup fever. A big turn out by home fans as well as the army of travelling West Ham supporters who have filled their allocation. Very noisy at the moment too. Just what you want from an FA Cup quarter-final actually. Bring it on."

Nick from Chelmsford via text: "I have a hunch that West Ham will do just fine without Ba today, considering their four strikers in the match squad..."

1358: Right then, the players are in the tunnel, the atmosphere is getting going... you lot ready for a spot of FA Cup quarter-final action? You better believe it.

1355: Now, you know I don't do predictions - and I never will - but Mark Lawrenson does! After getting it royally wrong yesterday, he's due a result today, so look no further and give our football expert's tips a glance. Though maybe keep your sterling in your pocket.

peterswan96 on Twitter: "Why, just why, do West Ham leave a striker that has scored four in four out of the squad, especially in an important game like this?!"

Col, north west, via text: "RE: 1329 - so if Stoke and Man City win today, does that make playing semis at Wembley even more daft?"

1350: STOKE v WEST HAM (1400 GMT)
Chris Bevan at the Britannia Stadium:
"Stoke boss Tony Pulis uses his programme notes to issue a rallying call to Potters fans who are growing increasingly frustrated by their side's dismal away form and slide towards the Premier League relegation zone, urging them to instead provide the sort of backing that has helped Stoke remain unbeaten at home in 2011. The prospect of a first trip to Wembley since the 2000 Auto Windscreens Shield final, and a first FA Cup semi-final since 1972, is the incentive for City today, but standing in their way are an in-form West Ham side that thumped them 3-0 at Upton Park last week and are full of confidence, and goals. Not easy."

1348: For now, though, let's focus on Stoke-West Ham, shall we? Here's another word from our man on the scene Chris Bevan...

1345: Results in from my quick straw-poll at 1306 - not only am I the luckiest sports journo alive, but also the most excitable, indulgent and most-diverse-football-lookalike alive. Which sounds about right.

1342: And, as if all that wouldn't be enough to sate your need for football ingestion, check out our ever-popular Football Gossip Column. Today's headlines/rumours/utterly-fabricated-nonsense see Man Utd considering the sale of Wayne Rooney, Chelsea and Man City battling over Kaka and a story about how Tottenham's shirts for next season could contain computers that will reveal how tired the players wearing them are. Robocop-tastic.

Ken in Sutton Coldfield via text: "Fair play to Stoke and West Ham for playing strong teams despite their league positions."

1337: And talking of the FA Cup losing its magic, Chris Bevan has been contemplating ways to spice the old trophy up again if you fancy a spot of light reading before the match kicks off. Meanwhile, Alistair Magowan's rather lovely feature on Hammers frontman Demba Ba has had the rug pulled from under it somewhat by the Senagelese internationals' failure to make today's game - but give it a glance anyway and memorise it for future reference.

1333: STOKE v WEST HAM (1400 GMT)
Chris Bevan at the Britannia Stadium:
"John Carew's back injury means Kenwyne Jones starts up front for Stoke, who make five other changes from the side who were well beaten at Upton Park last weekend. Thomas Sorensen, Danny Higginbotham, Glenn Whelan, Matthew Etherington and Jon Walters are the other players brought in by Potters boss Tony Pulis. West Ham make just one change, with one-time Stoke target Demba Ba left out of their squad completely. Victor Obinna replaces him, joining Frederic Piquionne and Carlton Cole up front, with fit-again striker Robbie Keane on the bench."

1329: So two matches to determine the last two qualifiers for the FA Cup semi-finals. And who do they join? First through yesterday was Bolton, who came through a five-goal thriller with Birmingham thanks to Lee Chung-Yong's last-minute winner, while Man Utd bounced back from two defeats to see off Arsenal at Old Trafford despite starting the game with seven defenders. Try telling those in the north west of England that the FA Cup has lost its magic, I dare you.

RobChesworth on Twitter: "RE: Fabregas likeness - I always thought Bobby George, no? :P"

Anon via text: "Welcome back Sam :) Thought we were forced to give you up for Lent!!!"
Good grief, no. Now go and eat some chocolate.

1324: STOKE v WEST HAM (1400 GMT)
Sorensen, Wilson, Shawcross, Huth, Higginbotham, Pennant, Delap, Whelan, Etherington, Walters, Jones. Subs: Nash, Collins, Fuller, Pugh, Diao, Whitehead, Wilkinson.
West Ham: Green, da Costa, Tomkins, Upson, Bridge, Noble, Parker, Hitzlsperger, Piquionne, Cole, Obinna. Subs: Boffin, Gabbidon, Boa Morte, Spector, Hines, Keane, Jacobsen.
Referee: Mike Jones (Cheshire)

Raxsweet on Twitter: "Oh you forgot to mention grass allergies in the Europa League round 16!"

John Carew is out for Stoke after failing to shake off a back injury, but both their wingers, Matty Etherington and Jermaine Pennant, are included. West Ham striker Demba Ba misses out, as he revealed on his personal website on Saturday. Carlton Cole and Frederic Piquionne start up front for the Hammers.

scottyb_85 on Twitter: "Everytime I see @sampatricklyon profile pic, I always initially see Cesc Fabregas #footballjournalistswholooklikefootballplayers."
I've always thought of myself as more Mark Ruffalo. Anyone? No?

_itsmona Mona on Twitter: "You're quite the drama queen aren't you? :)"
itsmona... you have no idea... ;)

1317: And here's your reminder of how to get in touch. Just so you know, the rules haven't changed. As always, you can Tweet the commentary via the hashtag #BBCFootball, ask me a question direct @sampatricklyon or text me via 81111 (UK). Bish bash bosh.

1313: So here's what we're looking at today my friends...
1400: FA Cup q/f: Stoke City v West Ham
1500: Championship: Cardiff v Barnsley
1600: FA Cup semi-final draw
1645: FA Cup q/f: Man City v Reading

More than enough for you to get excited about, right?

1311: But today's not just about my 'eagerly anticipated and overdue'* return to the football commentary chair of course - and nor is it about my catching up on the last two weeks while looking ahead to a bounty of football next week either - it's also, some would even same entirely, about today's FA Cup quarter-finals, the semi-final draw and with the bonus of a Championship tie thrown in.
*Eagerly anticipated and overdue... according to my mum.

1308: If you think I'm the luckiest sports journo ever, feel free to let me know via Twitter @sampatricklyon now won't you?

1306: And now I'm back in the warm embrace of the football commentaries. Blessed art thou football. And I return for what? Only the climax of the FA Cup quarter-finals, the FA Cup semi-final draw, a handful of stonking Champions League nights in midweek and an absolute barnstormer of a Premier League weekend next Saturday and Sunday. Quick straw poll - am I the luckiest sports journo alive?

1303: Oh yes, and snoods got banned. Damn that blasted knitwear. They'll be outlawing tights and pink boots next. This country...

1300: I'm baaaaaaack. Yep, I had to be dragged away kicking and screaming to 'serve' a couple of weeks holiday, but I'm back. So what have I missed? Well, Birmingham snapped up their first trophy in nearly 50 years, Man Utd's title challenge suffered a stammer and then a stumble while Chelsea regained their va-va-voom, Tottenham dumped Italy's finest out of the Champions League, West Ham became unstoppable overnight, Arsenal crashed out of three cup competitions in a fortnight and match officials regained/retained their status as football's public enemy number one. Anything else?

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The FA Cup results

13 Mar 2011 23:59 UK

see also
Sunday's football photos
13 Mar 11 |  Football

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