STOKE CITY claimed a valuable if hard-earned point from their trip to Hull as they played out a goalless draw at the KC Stadium.
Skipper Ryan Shawcross struck the woodwork and Stephen Ireland went close to breaking the deadlock on a wind-swept evening on Humberside as the Potters took their points tally to five from their last three Premier League outings.
Mark Hughes’ men were also indebted to goalkeeper Asmir Begovic who dispelled pre-match doubts over his fitness by making a number of outstanding saves.
Hughes made two changes to his side with Oussama Assaidi and Stephen Ireland, both of whom had got on the scoresheet in the Potters’ famous win over Chelsea a week earlier, returning to the starting line-up.
Assaidi, who bagged the spectacular match-winner against Jose Mourinho’s men, replaced the suspended Jon Walters, while Ireland took over in midfield from Charlie Adam, who was named among the substitutes.
Begovic was given the green light to play having recovered from the dead leg had had picked up in training earlier in the week.
Hull were quicker out of the blocks and Nelson Figeuroa attempted to test Begovic from distance with eight minutes on the clock but it was easily dealt with by the Potters’ No.1
He had, however, to be at his imperious best four minutes later to tip away a dipping Ahmed Elmohamady volley after Stoke had only partially cleared the home side’s first corner of the game.
Begovic also blocked at the feet of Danny Graham after the striker had skipped past the challenge of Shawcross on the edge of the six-yard box as the home side looked to forge a breakthrough midway through the first half.
The World Cup-bound ‘keeper was forced to make another fine save to keep out Yannick Sagbo – although the Potters had every right to feel aggrieved as Marc Muniesa was clearly fouled in the build-up.
Home skipper Curtis Davies planted a free header wide of the target from a Tom Huddlestone free-kick before Ireland and Marko Arnuatovic combined for the Potters’ brightest moment of the first half.
Arnautovic burst into the area after latching on to Ireland’s perfectly-weighted pass but the Austrian was unable to find a team-mate as fired across the face of Allan McGregor’s goal.
Sagbo squandered an opportunity to open the scoring in the closing stages of the first half as he volleyed wastefully over Begovic’s bar from a promising position.
Jake Livermore wasted a golden opportunity in the early stages of the second half as he fired wide from 10 yards out after robbing Glenn Whelan of possession.
At the other end Shawcross was just inches away from getting on the end of an Arnautovic corner – the first of the second half – in the 56th minute of a contest that was far from pulsating.
Sagbo earned the first booking of the game just before the hour mark after catching Begovic as he tried to clear down field from a corner.
Begovic made another stunning save to keep out an Elmohamady header from Figueroa’s cross from the left – and just seconds later the Potters should have punished their hosts.
Arnautovic and Assaidi found themselves two against one on the edge of the Hull area but, with Assaidi unmarked, the Austrian delayed his pass which allowed Alex Bruce to clear the danger.
Hughes made his first change of the game after 66 minutes as Erik Pieters replaced Muniesa and Hull responded with a substitution of their own with Robbie Brady replacing Bruce.
Ireland rifled a shot just wide of McGregor’s left-hand upright after Hull had failed to deal with a corner and although the Republic of Ireland international had the ball in the back of the net from close range in the 71st minute after McGregor had parried a Peter Crouch header, he was denied by an offside flag.
McGregor made a stunning save to keep out Crouch as Stoke looked to capitalise on their best spell of the game and from the resultant corner the bar came to Hull’s rescue as Shawcross headed against it.
Hughes and his opposite number Steve Bruce made further changes with 12 minutes remaining; Wilson Palacios replaced Whelan, while Liam Rosenior joined the action for the home side at the expense of David Meyler.
Adam replaced Arnautovic with 90 minutes on the clock but the Scotsman had no time to make a significant impact on the game.