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07:34 6th March 2011

City Suffer Another Setback On The Road

STOKE CITY'S poor away form in 2011 continued as they were swept aside by a resurgent West Ham United in the Barclays Premier League match at Upton Park.

Tony Pulis' side suffered a sixth successive defeat on the road since their Boxing Day triumph at Blackburn Rovers and this latest setback meant that they slipped back into the bottom half of the Premier League table while West Ham climbed out of the bottom three.

A defensive mix-up led to Demba Ba giving the Hammers a 22nd minute lead and they built up a two-goal cushion inside the first half hour when Manuel Da Costa headed home.

Although City performed better in the second half, any hopes of salvaging something from the game were killed off by a thumping drive from midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger.

Pulis made one change to the side which drew with West Bromwich Albion at the beginning of the week as Whelan was brought into the centre of midfield and Jones dropped to the bench.

West Ham had Ba in their side as he looked to continue his excellent start at Upton Park after a proposed move to the Potters fell through in the January window when he failed a medical.

Following their excellent win over Liverpool six days ago, the Hammers looked to get off to a flying start, roared on by the crowd, and Cole tried an ambitious shot inside the first minute.

That flew well wide of the target, but moments later Ba posed his first threat when he burst into the box only to be blocked off by Huth, but appeals for a penalty were waved away.

City settled down after an uneasy start and carved out the first real opportunity of the game when Delap sent over a low cross from the left which Walters flicked goalwards, but Green was alert to the danger and moved smartly to his right to push the ball away for a corner.

The Potters enjoyed a period of sustained pressure which raised hopes and when Pugh headed the ball forward, Shawcross was the furthest forward, but although he got in front of his marker, his header was a tame one and Green had no difficulty in saving his goalbound effort.

All that promise evaporated halfway through the first period when a mix-up in the City defence allowed the Hammers to go in front, and predictably it was Ba who got the goal.

When Wilson and Begovic hesitated over attempting to deal with Noble's through ball, the Senegal international nipped and had the relatively simple task to apply the finishing touch despite Wilson's attempt to atone for the error which created the chance out of nothing.

Things went from bad to worse for City as Wilson and Shawcross were both booked in quick succession, and from the second of those fouls, West Ham went further in front.

Hitzlsperger swung the free kick to the far post and central defender Da Costa escaped the attention of Walters and rose to firmly head home, giving Begovic no chance whatsoever.

City could have fallen even further behind in the 35th minute when Ba's crossfield ball eventually found its way through to Piquionne raiding down the right and his shot flew into the sidenetting.

Pugh became the third defender to receive a yellow card when he upended Piquionne and from the resulting free kick Hitzlsperger eventually unleashed a shot tipped over by Begovic.

City found themselves under pressure right at the start of the second half when Ba burst into the box, but fortunately on that occasion, Huth nipped in to clear behind for a corner.

From the resulting cross delivered into the box by Noble from the left, Tomkins came in at the far post and his header from the tightest of angles clipped the outside of the upright.

It was hardly surprising in the circumstances that Pulis made a like-for-like change early in the second half when former Hammers man Etherington was brought on to replace Pennant.

City were given some encouragement in the immediate aftermath of that switch as they pegged West Ham back and Delap forced a save out of Green with a long range effort.

The home side responded with a move which almost brought a third goal as Cole cut in from the right and curled a low left foot shot towards the far post which Begovic pushed away.

The Bosnian then produced a stunning reflex save to keep out another shot from Cole after a poor header from Shawcross allowed the England striker to nip in behind him.

Pulis then made further changes by introducing Fuller and Jones in quick succession, with Carew and Delap making way, and it prompted another chance to pull a goal back.

Etherington, who had switched to the right in the reshuffle, swung over a cross and Jones met it with a glancing header which flashed past the upright, and then the record signing set up Walters with a neat flick but his 20-yard drive was gathered by Green diving to his right.

City had another opportunity when Etherington and Fuller linked up well down the right and after Whitehead turned the ball low to the near post, Walters didn't react quickly enough.

With two goals needed and time running out, the Potters had to take chances which left them exposed at the back and Cole almost capitalised when he latched onto a pass from Tomkins, but he tried to place his shot in at the far post and it sailed agonisingly just past the upright.

But West Ham got their third goal moments later when Parker burst down the right and pulled it back for Piquionne whose mis-timed shot was half-cleared to Hitzlsperger and he thumped his left foot shot into the roof of the net from 15 yards out.

    Data provided by Press Association


    The Potters played out four replays to finally beat Bury in the FA Cup in 1955