EAGLES columnist SAM ROSS believes the prize of a home date with Manchester City is reason enough to take next Tuesday’s unwanted cup replay at Stoke City seriously.

SATURDAY’S FA Cup tie allowed the Eagles to go up against a side they hope to be playing in the Premier League next season.

And after not seeing Stoke play since 2007, I was looking forward to seeing what they had to offer.

I was keen to see if their reputation as a boring and physical long ball team was true and unfortunately Saturday proved just that. Palace took the game to the Potters in the opening minutes and looked to play the free flowing attacking style they have mastered over the last month, but after 15 minutes that soon changed.

Stoke had settled into the game and succeeded in transforming the remaining hour and a quarter into a real bore, something rare at Selhurst these days. Tony Pulis was clearly wary of the threat the Eagles posed and put out a decent team with a solid defence and midfield.

The pairing of Michael Owen and Peter Crouch appeared to be the only real surprises from the Welshman and they did themselves no favours. Owen lasted just over 50 minutes and it is hard to remember him being involved in anything for Stoke bar a flick on to Crouch within the opening minutes, which the 6ft 7ins forward embarrassingly miscued from six yards.

The main disappointment from Owen was not his lack of involvement but his apparent lack of desire for the game anymore.

I have been a big fan of Crouch and believe he has a lot more ability than people credit him, but it is clear he is lacking confidence in a Stoke team where he has dropped down in the pecking order behind Cameron Jerome.

Perhaps the only positives, especially for me as a fan of defending, were the Eagles held a top flight team, which eventually shelved out its full attacking options with Kenwyne Jones, Charlie Adam and Jerome coming on.

Damien Delaney and Peter Ramage were superb throughout, while Mile Jedinak is continuing to prove what a top player he is and won the majority of headers, an impressive feat against Stoke.

The dominance of Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross at the back for the Potters was clear to see.

The pair are beasts, pure and simple, and had they not been on the pitch Palace would be celebrating a third round triumph and the prospect of welcoming Manchester City to Selhurst.

The replay at the Britannia is going to be extremely difficult and while many fans, as well as the club, are not particularly keen on a cup run, the chance to play City in the fourth round is massive and shouldn’t be passed up easily.

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