STOKE CITY endured a frustrating afternoon in front of goal as West Ham United held them to a goalless draw at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Despite largely dominating the encounter, the home side found it difficult to find a way through a stubborn and determined three-man Hammers backline.
The best opportunities fell to Marko Arnautovic, Joe Allen and Saido Berahino, but on all three occasions goalkeeper Adrian came to his side’s rescue with outstanding second half saves.
At the other end Jack Butland impressed on his first home outing in over 12 months as he produced a tremendous save to block Andre Ayew’s acrobatic effort, before he made an even better second-half stop to deny the Ghanaian from point-blank range.
Butland’s inclusion in the side came as no surprise after Hughes confirmed the England stopper would continue in goal during Friday afternoon’s press conference.
The Welshman did however throw a couple of curveballs at the visitors as he recalled Marc Muniesa to left-back, with Erik Pieters missing out, and Glenn Whelan, at the expense of Peter Crouch.
The home side enjoyed the better of a largely forgetful first-half, although it was Slaven Bilic’s troops who created the better opportunities throughout the first 45.
A neat passage of play down the right flank culminated in Jonathan Calleri finding space inside the penalty box, but with more time that he realised, he clipped well over when well positioned.
The South American then tried an audacious rabona that was superbly blocked en-route to goal by the impressive Bruno Martins Indi, before Butland denied Ayew with an outstanding save down to his left.
Hughes’ men, who were dominating the possession stats, very nearly found a breakthrough thanks to Berahino, only for his strike to cannon away from goal via the outstretched leg of Winston Reid, before Glen Johnson narrowly failed to pick out the unmarked Marko Arnautovic.
The start of the second half heralded a far more potent period for the home side with Allen clipping an effort inches wide of the target following a flowing move down the right, moments before Xherdan Shaqiri saw a thunderous effort tipped over by Adrian.
The home side’s early onslaught continued with Welsh international Allen forcing Adrian into another smart save after being freed by an intelligent through ball from Arnautovic.
You could sense that one goal would win the game for either side, and the Potters had Butland to thank for keeping them in the game 20 minutes from time when he denied Cheikhou Kouyate from distance, before he made two tremendous saves to thwart Ayew and Manuel Lanzini.
With the encounter ticking down towards its conclusion, a moment of magic from Shaqiri very nearly won the game for the hosts.
The Swiss maestro produced the ball of the game to pick out Arnautovic in-behind the Hammers backline, but he was unable to beat Adrian, who stood firm and parried the Austrian’s volleyed effort around post.