MARK HUGHES and his first-team squad departed East London on Saturday evening bewildered as to how they failed to chalk up their seventh Barclays Premier League victory of the season.
The Potters were left to rue four missed opportunities to claim maximum spoils in what was more than likely their final trip to the historic Boleyn Ground.
Another triumph on the road would undoubtedly have been the rewards for the Potters’ efforts in the capital as they, at times, tore the Hammers backline apart.
Marko Arnautovic produced another mercurial showing at the same venue that he netted a dramatic last gasp leveller at twelve months earlier, although he was left wondering how he, nor his teammates, were able to turn their dominance into two more points.
The Austrian himself was guilty of failing to hit the target when well positioned midway through the first period; just moments after watching the recalled Marko van Ginkel plant a seemingly certain goal wide of the target.
Slaven Bilic’s side offered some resistance with the powerful Andy Carroll causing a nuisance of himself throughout, whilst the intelligent Mauro Zarate and rapid Michail Antonio also questioned the stubborn City rear-guard.
Jack Butland had to produce a couple of decent saves during the opening 45 minutes to thwart Carroll and Cheikhou Kouyate - both of whom tried in vain to open the afternoon’s scoring from distance.
Mark Hughes’ men, minus the injured Xherdan Shaqiri, were undoubtedly the more potent and eye-catching side on display, but for all of the intricacy on the ball there was nobody able to grab the headlines by hitting the back of the net.
Arnautovic watched in frustration as a stunning long-range free-kick flicked off a United defender and rattled the crossbar, whilst the Ibrahim Afellay’s drive caught James Collins’ foot and dipped over the crossbar.
England regular Butland was grateful to his post on the one occasion that he was beaten during the encounter, with Zarate turning in celebration as he anticipated his fizzing strike nestling into the bottom corner.
From there on in however there was only one team likely to claim the points.
The introduction of Mame Diouf midway through the second half added pace to the Potters frontline, and from the moment he stepped on the pitch you could see that he was likely to ask questions of his opponents.
That he did! However, after using his power and speed to get in behind the backline just five minutes after his arrival, he fired straight at ‘keeper Adrian after Bojan had superbly played the ball into his path.
The Senegalese international, who hasn’t had a great deal of game-time in recent weeks, lacked the golden touch he displayed in front of goal during the opening weeks of the campaign, as he missed another one-on-one right at the death.
Stoke supporters housed behind the goal were stunned as to how the game looked to be petering out in to stalemate, but they were relieved to claim the point, which was the least their side deserved, deep into stoppage time as a combination of Butland and Glenn Whelan denied Kouyate.