STOKE CITY are up to a season high seventh place in the Barclays Premier League after overcoming in-form Norwich City at the Britannia Stadium on Wednesday evening.
Efforts from Jonathan Walters, Joselu and an unfortunate own goal from Ryan Bennett were enough to claim all three points against the ten-man Canaries.
The visitors, who had won three of their previous four fixtures, were the architects of their own downfall in North Staffordshire as Gary O’Neil recklessly got himself sent off midway through the first half.
The midfielder displayed all the characteristics of a far less experienced performer by lunging into the back of Dutch midfielder Ibrahim Afellay, when the ball was seemingly already out of play.
Still, the Potters had to find a way through a stubborn, and more defensive-minded opposition, and they eventually reaped their rewards shortly after the interval when Walters broke the deadlock at the back post - latching onto Marko Arnautovic’s sublime centre.
The visitors threw a spanner in the works when Jonny Howson let rip a stunning effort shortly after to draw his side level, but the hosts upped the ante thereafter to take the game away from Alex Neil’s troops.
Joselu, who opened his account for the Club during the epic 4-3 triumph over Everton last month, netted another invaluable goal for his side - this time from distance - leaving ‘keeper Declan Rudd helpless.
That goal came just moments after Neil had gambled by thrusting attacking players Nathan Redmond and Matt Jarvis into the action in a bid to take all three points back to Norfolk.
Whilst the pair added flair and a greater threat in the attacking areas of the pitch, it did leave them exposed at the back and the hosts looked to prey on those weaknesses.
Arnautovic, who had gone close to scoring in the first half, narrowly failed to make contact with a dangerous Erik Pieters cross into the box, whilst skipper Ryan Shawcross maybe should have done better from a set-piece situation.
The absence of Xherdan Shaqiri and Geoff Cameron to injury gave the likes of Walters and Joselu an opportunity to shine, and whilst neither disappointed the home crowd, it was Ryan Bennett’s hugely unfortunate own goal that brought the biggest cheer of the evening.
Afellay, who had managed to dust himself down following O’Neil’s crazy first half challenge, delivered a dangerous in-swinging free-kick which was glanced over Canaries stopper Rudd, much to the delight of the majority of supporters in attendance.
Peter Crouch, who was introduced as a late substitute, twice went close to sealing the victory in style, with a thumping volley being superbly palmed away by Rudd, before he failed to make contact with a trademark overhead kick, when had he done so, he may well have added to the Potters’ tally.
Next up for Hughes’ men is a Super Sunday showdown with Arsenal, where victory in that particular game could be enough to see the side up into the top five of the league table.