STOKE CITY’S five month wait for an away Premier League victory was prolonged at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon as Jason Puncheon’s second half strike inflicted a tenth defeat of the term upon Mark Hughes’ side.
The on-loan Southampton winger made amends for his horrendous penalty miss at White Hart Lane seven days earlier by firing home the decisive strike of the game shortly after the half-time interval.
Stoke though, will feel aggrieved not to have at least secured a share of the spoils as opportunities came and went during both the first and second 45 minutes.
Hughes named new signing John Guidetti on the bench prior to kick-off following his arrival on a loan deal from Manchester City earlier in the week.
His spot on the bench meant that striker Peter Crouch, who netted during last weekend’s 5-3 defeat against Liverpool, continued in the lone role he has become accustomed to in recent months.
The only change to the starting eleven from last time out was Oussama Assaidi, who came back into the team at the expense of Marko Arnautovic, who dropped down to the bench.
Jack Butland resumed his duties in goal, ushering a back four that comprised of Geoff Cameron, skipper Ryan Shawcross, Marc Wilson and Dutch international Erik Pieters.
Jon Walters continued on the right hand side of midfield with Assaidi on the left, sandwiching a central midfield trio of Glenn Whelan, Steven Nzonzi and the more attack-minded Charlie Adam.
Buoyed by the backing of a vociferous home crowd, Palace started the brighter of the two sides with wingers Jason Puncheon and Yannick Bolasie proving to be constant nuisances to the Stoke fullbacks.
In fact, it was a darting run from Bolasie on the left that resulted in the first effort at goal from Damien Delaney, who, thankfully for the visitors, wasn’t able to place his header on target from 8-yards.
At the other end, fellow defender Danny Gabbidon very nearly inadvertently put the ball into his own net after slicing a Walters centre just over Julian Speroni’s crossbar.
From the resulting centre, Wilson found himself unmarked at the far post but only managed to place his header across the 6-yard box, allowing the Palace stopper to calmly gather the ball.
Ten minutes later the same pair linked up once again, and for the second time it could have culminated in the opening goal of the game, but for a tremendous save from Speroni to deny the Republic of Ireland defender.
As the game progressed Stoke began to grow in confidence and have a more telling matter on the proceedings.
A free-flowing move through the middle of the pitch, of which Nzonzi was the architect, forged yet another half-opportunity for Hughes’ side as Pieters moved towards goal courtesy of a clever Adam flick, but only managed to fire his effort wide.
Adam and Whelan both hammered hopeful efforts from range well over the bar, whilst a sporadic Palace surge forward saw the largely anonymous Marouane Chamakh fail to make contact with a Punchoen cross.
In truth, there was only one side that looked capable of forging the first opening of the afternoon as the half drew to its conclusion, but when it mattered the little bit of quality needed to breakthrough the home rearguard went missing.
Right at the start of the second period the majority of the crowd thought that the visitors had finally managed to make a breakthrough thanks to Adam, however, his drilled effort from 15-yards sadly beat both the ‘keeper and the post.
The onslaught from the visitors continued with Shawcross narrowly missing out on making contact with Adam’s cross, whilst Walters hit an effort wide of goal after Nzonzi did well to free him down the right hand side.
Disaster struck just ten minutes later when, with their first effort on target, the hosts found themselves ahead.
A defensive mix-up between Assaidi and Wilson allowed Puncheon to steel the ball inside the 18-yard box, move towards the penalty spot and hit an unstoppable effort through the legs of Shawcross and into the far corner of the net.
Hughes responded by introducing Stephen Ireland from the bench, with Whelan the player to make way, but despite his freshness, the Potters were still unable to force Speroni into a save, despite several chances falling their way.
Adam lashed two efforts from range agonisingly wide of goal as the home side looked to sit back on their one goal advantage, whilst Nzonzi hit another effort into the side netting following good work from Assaidi.
Marko Arnautovic was introduced as the match wore on, as was Guidetti, who added some spice to the frontline.
As the visitors pressed forward in search of a leveller, gaps began to be exposed at the back and had it not been for a quite sensational triple save from Butland, the game would have been put to bed ten minutes before the full time whistle.
As it was, the game remained in the balance, and in the process Stoke remained in with a chance of claiming the point that their performance merited.
Unfortunately, Guidetti saw a volley deflected over from 10-yards whilst penalty appeals were waved away in stoppage time when Shawcross appeared to have been pulled down inside the 18-yard box.