Stoke travelled to Upton Park looking for their second successive league win under Mark Hughes. Last weekends comeback victory over Crystal Palace may have given the Potters a spring in their step ahead of this tricky looking test on paper. Hughes made one change to his starting eleven bringing in Kenwyne Jones, following his hat-trick against Walsall in the Capital One Cup in midweek, replacing Peter Crouch. Whilst his counterpart Sam Allardyce kept his West Ham side the same following a goalless draw away to Newcastle last Saturday. Looking at the teamsheets it was obvious that West Ham were looking to give Stoke problems out wide with Downing and Jarvis providing the width and crosses for lone striker Maiga to feed off, however this didn’t transpire as Stoke put in a perfect away performance to take three points away from East London, condemning the Hammers to their first home defeat since February.
A first half of few chances saw Jaaskelanien produce a fine double save to deny a Marc Wilson volley from 25 yards then the rebound from Jonathan Walters, after the Finnish stopper parried the initial effort. The only chance for the hosts fell to Modibo Maiga but he failed to keep his header down and it ballooned wide of the goal into the Sir Trevor Brooking stand. The transition of philosophy under Hughes was apparent in the first half alone with Stoke passing the ball around and creating chances in open play, not relying on long ball and set pieces (despite what Alan Hansen thinks).
The second half followed a similar pattern and the match threatened to fizzle out into a damp squib until the 76th minute when Hughes brought on Jermaine Pennant and Glenn Whelan to replace Matthew Etherington and Charlie Adam. The game came to life in the 81st minute when Whelan was fouled by Mohamed Diame on the edge of the West Ham area; up stepped Jermaine Pennant to curl the free-kick over the wall and into Jaaskelanien’s goal sending the Stoke fans behind the goal into delirium. Sam Allardyce may look at the awarding of the free-kick as questionable, but the wall should face scrutiny as players seemed to duck under the ball rather than taking one for the team. The goal seemed to wake the hosts up for the final eight minutes, but they failed to force Asmir Begovic into a meaningful save. The full-time whistle was greeted with boos from the home supporters who voiced their opinions following a poor performance against a team not known for their away performances.
This was Stoke’s first away victory under Hughes and it was one that impressed many; nine shots on target to West Ham’s none and the Potters had just over half the possession (51%). Ball retention seems to be one of Mark Hughes’ main focuses and his side seem to coping well with the change in philosophy completing 313 passes with a completion rate of 76%. Stoke still need to strength in the attacking third with the final ball lacking once again suggesting a creative playmaker should be on the list of priorities before Monday’s deadline. West Ham’s performance left a lot to be desired and they didn’t threaten Begovic, this must be a concern for Hammers fans because Allardyce has made it clear they will have to sell before buying.