STOKE CITY’S first-team stars delivered yet more early Christmas presents to supporters on Saturday afternoon.
Mark Hughes’ troops had spent time out in the community earlier in the week spreading Festive cheer around North Staffordshire in the run up to the big day.
However, they saved their best until last as they dished up three crucial Premier League points at the bet365 Stadium.
Both City and West Bromwich Albion came into the fixture on the back of disappointing runs of form, but it was the home side who earned a much needed victory.
Make no mistake about it, there were nerves, and the hosts were thankful to both Jack Butland and a little bit of lady luck throughout the afternoon, but nobody can argue that it wasn’t deserved.
Joe Allen’s effort midway through the first-half eased those undoubted nerves inside the stadium, as the Welshman stabbed home from point blank range after being superbly picked out by Peter Crouch.
England international Butland then proved his worth with an outstanding save to deny Solomon Rondon, just minutes after the striker had clipped an effort over with the goal at his mercy.
As the home side looked set to go into the break a goal to the good, a lack of concentration within the Baggies ranks allowed Allen to feed through Maxim Choupo-Moting, who rounded Ben Foster and made no mistake in firing past the desperate Ahmed Hegazi on the goal line.
A 2-0 lead at the break, and on course for a first win in five… well, so you would have thought! However, Alan Pardew’s side had other ideas.
They looked vibrant and played at a far higher tempo as they began the second half, and when a long punt forward was finished with real aplomb by Rondon, you could sense a real change in the wind.
Albion’s hassled, harried and pressed in a bid to peg the Potters back, and they went so close to doing so on a couple of occasions, with City thankful to some outstanding defending from skipper Ryan Shawcross and Kevin Wimmer for retaining their advantage.
Home debutant Tom Edwards, who picked up the man of the match award, was full of energy on the right and produced several outstanding deep deliveries, which very nearly culminated in Crouch getting himself on the scoresheet.
Choupo-Moting, the architect of most positive Stoke passages of play, then went close with a header of his own, before Butland made a fantastic save to thwart substitute Jay Rodriguez, as he looked to steer home from close range.
There was late drama as Edwards almost inadvertently put the ball into his own net, with Butland producing a superb stop down to his right to bail out the youngster, who had done so well to get his foot in the path of the ball, which Rondon would certainly have steered into the net.
As Albion pushed forward, gaps began to appear at the back, and City capitalised.
Mame Diouf, who came on for Fletcher earlier in the half, played a neat ball out to Choupo-Moting, he strode forward, leaving two Baggies defenders in his wake, squared the ball to Ramadan, who was left with the simplest of tasks from just six-yards out!
Cue utter delirium, as the home supporters and players celebrated a monumental victory ahead of the Boxing Day trip to Huddersfield Town.