A brace from Kenwyne Jones saw Stoke breeze past Switzerland’s FC Thun and book their place in the draw for the Europa league group stages.
The 4-1 victory saw the Potters run out 5-1 winners on aggregate against the team who dumped Italian giants Palermo out in the previous round.
Three goals in 15 first-half minutes saw Stoke gain total control of the tie.
New signing Matthew Upson marked his home debut with a goal, Kenwyne Jones continued on from his exploits at Norwich by bagging a brace of headers and Glenn Whelan also got in on the act with a trademark finish.
Delap, struggling with a groin injury, was not to be risked by Pulis with the game at West Brom in the back of the mind so Dean Whitehead took his place in the centre of midfield.
It was thought Jermaine Pennant would have to miss out on this one but the 28-year-old shrugged off his knock to play a crucial part in the game.
The opening stages of the encounter brought nothing of note, the game looked cagey as FC Thun kept the ball relatively well and Stoke, with the one-goal lead, were showing no sign of urgency in an effort to put the tie to bed.
The first piece of action saw the ever-running Dean Whitehead start a move, stroking the ball out wide to Walters who checked before firing a teasing cross just beyond the former Sunderland-man as Stoke looked to up the tempo and grab the crucial first goal of the game.
Jermaine Pennant was looking as lively as ever and after a typically mazy run and superb cross, Kenwyne Jones couldn’t direct his header on target – the Potters were beginning to smell blood.
In the 24th minute, the goal which effectively ended the tie came. A Jermaine Pennant corner was met by Matthew Upson who thumped a header beyond Djuki and set the Potters well on their way.
Only five minutes later and Stoke doubled their lead – Jermaine Pennant causing all sorts of problems for the Swiss as he lifted a beautifully weighted cross for Kenwnye Jones to nod a relatively tame header home.
Thun’s keeper Djuki won’t have been happy with himself as he saw the ball squirm underneath his body.
It was beginning to be a tale of the crosses as ANOTHER Jermaine Pennant corner was headed out to the onrushing Glenn Whelan who fired a deflected & looping shot over a helpless Djukic and into the back of the net to send City 3-0 up and cruising.
As the second half came, a gutsy run by Andy Wilkinson suggested Stoke were not to take their foot of the gas, the Stone-born fans favourite surging forward before dragging a left-footed effort wide of the target – creating arguably the biggest roar of the night so far.
With West Brom on Sunday in mind, changes were made and Jermaine Pennant made way for Tom Soares, who impressed in an effective cameo.
Wilson was also sacrificed for Danny Collins as Stoke looked to see out the tie without any casualties.
The Potters continued to threaten with no response from the downed Swiss as Jon Walters found himself in a great position just inside the area but his effort was blocked by a last-ditch challenge from Schindelholz.
Another lung-busting run from Wilkinson saw the 27-year-old burst past two defenders before firing a cross towards Dean Whitehead who got a firm connection on his header but failed to trouble the Thun keeper.
However, the most outstanding piece of quality throughout the game was saved for the 73rd minute(Stoke always seem to score in this minute, don’t they?)
Tom Soares, long overlooked and loaned out to lower-division clubs after a promising start to his Stoke City career, created the fourth goal with a great piece of wing play.
The 25-year-old burst past one man by sheer pace before pushing the ball to once side of Thun’s full back, rushing on to the other side and delivering a great cross for Kenwyne Jones to emphatically finish with a wonderfully aimed header.
With party-time well under way in the Potteries, the only blemish on what was a very satisfying night came five minutes later as Tommy Sorenson was unable to keep out Wittwer’s close-range strike.
Walters then made way for make-shift striker Ryan Shotton who looked sharp and made a burst into the area which was snuffed out by the Thun defence.
Not that many Stokies will care though, the Potters are in the group stages of the Europa League and there’s every chance they could be playing some big names very soon.
The draw takes place in just over an hour and a half’s time – exciting!
Thomas Sorenson 6
Had nothing to do apart from the goal, can’t be blamed though as the effort was struck hard from close-range.
Andy Wilkinson 7
Wilko coped with ease against Thun’s attack, and threatened on a number of occasions going forward. The lack of quality distribution was evident at times but after another typical display – we can overlook that.
Matthew Upson 7
The new-signing looked assured in defence but wasn’t really tested, the 32-year-old did mark his home debut with a great header from a corner though and only adds to Stoke’s power from set-pieces. Sure to face much sterner opposition.
Ryan Shawcross 7
For a player of his quality, he didn’t really have to get out of first gear tonight as the Swiss failed to make any inroads whatsoever. Comfortable in possession and snuffed out any possible opening that Thun created.
Marc Wilson 7
Similiar to Shawcross really, a second half nutmeg was the highlight of his display – still proving to be far too good at full back to dislodge, will play a massive part for Stoke this season.
Jermaine Pennant 8
Pretty oustanding when he was on the pitch and it looked like he wasn’t even at full-pelt, one hell of a signing who tormented the Thun defence and almost single handedly put the game to bed with pinpoint crosses to Jones and Upson, and a corner which found Whelan who slammed the ball home.
Glenn Whelan 7
Solid performance, Stoke had plenty of room in the middle of the park and the Ireland midfielder made it count, strolled around for the lion’s share of the game, helping the Potters keep the ball, he was also on hand to bury a deflected effort to send Stoke 3-0 up. Impressed towards the back-end of last season and seems to be getting more and more comfortable as each game goes by.
Dean Whitehead 7
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Whitehead have an off day, he’s a total machine. Worked his socks off throughout and showed genuine quality, albeit against a team who didn’t close down as much as they had to.
Danny Pugh 6
Fairly quiet throughout as the man on the other side of Stoke’s attack grabbed all the plaudits and rightly so – but the former Man United trainee never lets Stoke down and after his goal in the first leg, he can be extremely proud of his contribution to the tie. Helped keep team shape and was neat and tidy in possession
Kenwyne Jones 8
Thun didn’t really know how to cope with him. Could and probably should have finished the game with a hat-trick but his aerial prowess continues to impress, will play a massive part for Stoke this season, if only we could merge Walters and Jones into one ‘super’ player, ahh…
Jon Walters 7
I don’t think he’s human, I don’t really care though. Ran around like a psycho once again, disappointed against Norwich but was lively tonight and his intelligent runs didn’t go un-noticed.
Tom Soares 7
I’ve always thought he’s had the raw ability, it’s just about getting him match-fit and his head in the right place. Clearly with his hand in the fourth-goal he has something about him, and he’s proved that before for Stoke against Spurs in the first Premiership season. Still has a part to play after this showing, but will have to work really hard for his chance.
Well, in the match preview, I did say he was entertaining to watch. And he certainly gave it his all tonight, from where I was sitting right at the top of the South Stand there was no lack of frustration or gestures towards officials.