Skipper Shawcross secures Stoke's first win
The Britannia Stadium
24th August 2013, 3.00pm
Ryan Shawcross scored a second half winner to give Mark Hughes his first victory in charge of the Potters. Two goals in the space of 4 second half minutes were enough to see Sparky`s men come from a goal down to take the spoils at The Britannia Stadium.
Hughes made just one change to his starting eleven for the visit of Ian Holloway`s Crystal Palace, with Charlie Adam replacing Glen Whelan in the middle of Stoke`s midfield. The decision proved an inspired one as the Scot, relishing his new found freedom under Hughes, produced a man of the match performance to guide Stoke to their first win of this Premier League season.
It was not all plain sailing for Hughes who saw his side fall behind on his Britannia bow and at times struggle with the new style of play that the Welshman is trying to introduce. It was the visitors who had the more clear cut openings in the opening 45 minutes as Stoke looked nervy and lacked any real pace or creativity in the final third. Peter Crouch had the home sides only real opening when some good build up play got Etherington to the left by-line but the lanky forward couldn't get past a combination of keeper and woodwork.
Holloway handed a debut to new signing Jason Puncheon and he was a thorn in the Potters defence early on using his pace and directness to cause problems. However it was Marouane Chamakh who broke the deadlock, the former Arsenal forward who has really struggled for goals since arriving in the Premier League got his first for new side Palace but it did come with more than a helping hand from some very poor Stoke defending. A hopeful long ball was horribly misjudged by Ryan Shawcross who was then out muscled way to easily for his and his managers liking. Chamakh then turned inside a rash challenge from Robert Huth and slid past a helpless Asmir Begovic. A very poor goal to concede and it nearly got even worse for the home side as the Eagles left back Moxey had a drive from 20 yards that sneaked inches wide of the left hand upright.
A few disgruntled murmurs greeted the half time whistle, it was not the first half Hughes would have hoped for and his first half time team talk at The Britannia was sure to be a testing one. Whatever Hughes said during the interval, it worked because Stoke were a completely different proposition in the second half. The Britannia was back to its volatile best and so were the team, pressing the ball high up the pitch, the new passing style mixed with old work rate and commitment.
Stoke were camped in the Crystal Palace half but their best chances were falling to Crouch who with just 3 goals in his last 32 league games was struggling to convert. He went close again from an Etherington corner but he couldn`t hit the target with his close range header. Even with the Striker struggling to score goals he had a big role in the equaliser, winning a header he had no right to win in the penalty area, the ball fell to Charlie Adam who calmly slotted into the bottom corner. The comeback was complete just 4 minutes later and it was a "typical" Stoke goal which will have got all the pundits writing their stereotypes. A Delap Esq. long throw from American Geoff Cameron pinballed around the Palace 6 yard box before falling to captain Shawcross who atoned for his earlier error to swivel and drive the ball home.
Stoke could have won more comfortably when N`Zonzi released a pile driver from 25 yards that smashed into the right hand post but the result was never in doubt as Palace looked shell shocked and may be in for a struggle this season.
A very important 3 points for Hughes, however it did show that the change in style that Hughes wants to implement is still a work in progress. The Welshman declared himself happy with the second half showing but he will also be concerned about the lacklustre first half his team produced.
The remaining few days of the transfer window could also be crucial to how Stoke progress this season. The forward line evidently needs strengthening with wingers and a mobile goal scoring striker high on Hughes wish list.
Special mention also to Erik Pieters on his home debut, he produced a very solid performance and looked good going forward. Looks like he could prove to be brilliant bit of business for Stoke.