Stoke Focus – Hard-fought QPR victory eases nerves at the Britannia

The relief around the Britannia Stadium was tangible as Charlie Adam’s second-half strike ensured a slender victory over basement club Queens Park Rangers and just eased the pressure that had been building somewhat on Tony Pulis and his Stoke City side.

This was by no means a thrilling Stoke performance, once again certainly not what we have come to expect from the Potters at the Britannia. Indeed, at times Pulis’ men had to ride their luck. First, Adel Taarabt produced a quite remarkable attempt at a chipped finish when clean through on goal which sailed over the bar, before Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic was forced to tip away a goal-bound effort from Esteban Granero.

However, no one will remember anything bar the result and Stoke’s first win in five games could not be more perfectly timed. Those previous matches not only saw poor results but also poor performances, particularly with regards to finding the net. Indeed, the lack of goal threat that has been exhibited in recent matches remained on show against QPR and, for all of the home side’s pressure, it took a lucky bounce off a set piece which gave Charlie Adam the room to rifle home the game’s only goal.

Adam’s goal was his reward for an enterprising performance, perhaps his best in a Stoke shirt to date. The former Liverpool man has taken time to adapt to playing from a right-midfield position rather than his accustomed central role but there were signs against QPR that the Scotland international was beginning to get to grips with the position. His goal may grab the headlines but his overall play and work-rate, particularly his searching diagonal deliveries looking for Peter Crouch on the far post, were excellent.

The three points were just what the doctor ordered and help ensure that Stoke remain far from the relegation battle – a full six points ahead of 18th-placed Reading. However, Pulis will be experienced enough to know that the victory does not mean all is rosy in the Britannia garden.

Indeed, the Welshman will be concerned about the way his side conceded possession so cheaply and willingly at times to the visitors. While this is not exactly unusual at the Britannia where the hosts look to sit back and sting the opposition on the counter-attack, this was hardly against a Manchester United or an Arsenal. This was against the bottom side in the division and so perhaps a more convincing performance and victory should have been expected.

However, given their recent run of results, Stoke will simply be pleased to gain any sort of victory and, with a promising set of fixtures to come which sees them travel to newly-promoted West Ham before two more home clashes with Fulham and Newcastle, Pulis will be hoping his side can use the QPR victory as a springboard for a charge up the league.

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