The relief on Tony Pulis’ face at the final whistle told the full story. After a run of only one win in 14 league fixtures prior to the visit to Loftus Road, Stoke were not widely expected to take three points away from West London, regardless of the poor form and perilous league position QPR find themselves in.
Indeed, even if the Potters were to only secure a point against Harry Redknapp’s side, it would be at least seen as a step in the right direction considering the run they have been on.
However, thanks to a goal in each half from Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters, Pulis’ side eventually ran out comfortable 2-0 winners and moved six points clear of the relegation zone. It was certainly not a performance the Potters supporters saw coming and certainly not away from the Britannia given the club’s record on the road of eight consecutive matches without a win and only two goals scored in the process.
That only made Stoke’s performance at Loftus Road all the more impressive as they deservedly took home a victory that should have been by an even greater margin.
With Matthew Etherington still out injured and Michael Kightly on the bench, Pulis’ team selection seemed to smack of caution as Charlie Adam and Walters lined up in the wider positions flanking a central-midfield duo of Glenn Whelan and Steven N’Zonzi who have failed to even score a single goal between them so far this season.
Even the two strikers had been on an extremely barren run, with Crouch only finding the net once since late September while Cameron Jerome had only three goals to his name all season long before the visit to QPR.
However, the partnership combined excellently throughout the opening 45 minutes and after going close on a couple of occasions, eventually did give the Potters the lead when Crouch effortlessly swept home Jerome’s cutback. It was the former England international Crouch who also had in a hand in the second goal, when he was brought down in the six-yard-box, allowing Walters to drill home his tenth goal of the season from the spot.
Pulis will still not feel his side to be completely safe from relegation but with a home match against Norwich to come next week, the Welshman will surely be confident that with the momentum from the victory over QPR, the three more points that would take them to the magical 40-mark would almost certainly secure their place in the Premier League for next season.
Indeed, with a tough trio of season-ending fixtures to a rejuvenated Sunderland, Champions League-chasing Tottenham and an in-form Southampton, next week’s clash with Norwich takes on added importance.
What happens to the manager at the end of the season is anyone’s’ guess but for the time being, he can at least celebrate a rare three points in 2013.
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