Date: 22nd February 2015 at 10:58pm
Written by: Matthew Forrester

Stoke put behind them the disappointment of last weekend’s poor performance at Blackburn to secure a morale boosting 2-1 win over local rivals Aston Villa.

Things were looking up for the Potters from before kick off with the news that Erik Pieters, Marc Wilson, Stephen Ireland and Jon Walters were all fit to take their places in the starting line up and ease some of the strain on a squad that has been stretched to breaking point in recent weeks.

Stoke boss Mark Hughes was concerned that the arrival of new Villa boss Tim Sherwood may inspire the home side to play a more expansive and threatening style of play, and it was the home side who started brighter without posing any serious threat to Asmir Begovic.

But it would be the home side who took the lead in the 20th minute. Bardsley and Sinclair got wrapped up with each other with the Stoke full back coming off worst. This resulted in Sinclair getting a free header in the Stoke box which he powered into the corner of the net.

It was only Villa’s 13th goal of the season, and the home side visibly grew in confidence after it.

Mame Diouf was clearly struggling out on the wing, so Hughes swapped him and Walters and it proved to be a masterstroke just before half time.

Ireland took a quick throw to Walters which he fed back to Ireland who put a beautiful cross in for Diouf to rise highest and power the ball past Guzan. It was a deserved equaliser for the Potters and came at a perfect time.

Into the second half and chances were at a premium and a lot of credit needs to go to the centre backs who defended a lot deeper and communicated far better than the shambolic display at Blackburn a week earlier.

Stoke seemed content with a point and this was evident as they brought on Sidwell for Ireland rather than going for the win with Crouch or Arnautovic. But the Potters continued to press forward and Walters neat volley forced Guzan into a good save.

Villa would have a final chance to try and win it as Ciaran Clark headed a corner towards goal but Begovic rose to tip the ball over the bar.

Just as the game seemed to be meandering to a draw Victor Moses burst through down the left and Ron Vlaar’s heavy touch allowed him into the box before Vlaar’s terribly late tackle earned him a red card and gave Moses the chance to win it.

Moses stepped up calmly to send the keeper the wrong way and wheeled off to celebrate the winner in front of the jubilant Potters fans.

It was vindication for many of the players from last week and another terrific away league performance.

A special mention must go to Glenn Whelan who seemed to celebrate as much as anyone following a tough week for the club and the stand in skipper who had felt the defeat in the cup more than most, but their was genuine affection and respect between both player and fans at full time.

The win keeps the Potters in the top half and proves there is still a lot to play for in the remaining games this season.