MARK HUGHES highlighted the performance of Steven Ireland as one of the major positives to take from Saturday's impressive 3-1 Barclays Premier League victory against West Ham United.
The former Aston Villa midfielder earned himself the man-of-the-match award in his first league start of 2014, after producing an incredibly polished display in the attacking midfield role.
Speaking following the game, Hughes said he had absolutely no qualms over handing the Republic of Ireland ace a starting role in the absence of the suspended Charlie Adam and Jonathan Walters.
"I had no worries about bringing Steven Ireland into the team because I know what qualities he can bring to the side," the 50-year-old told Stoke City Player.
"He fulfilled the role we wanted him to play today incredibly well, and on another day he possibly would have scored a couple of goals himself.
"I see the qualities that he has within his locker every single day in training, and I think he showed everybody what a player he can be out on the pitch today.
"He hasn't played as regularly as he would have liked this season, although that has been down to the performances of the other lads who have been playing."
The City boss believes that keeping the Hammers at bay for the opening 15-minutes of the second period was key to his side recording maximum points from the encounter.
"We had to withstand a little bit of pressure when they were throwing the balls into the box early in the second half, but we did that well, after the disappointment of the opening goal," he added.
"There was a brief spell in the second half where they were pumping balls into the box and pressurising us that way a little bit, but we withstood that well.
"Because of that we were able to utilise the attacking qualities that we have up front and take the game away from them during the final 20 minutes or so.
"It was really pleasing performance all round to be perfectly honest, and the manner in which we finished the game was really pleasing."
Hughes also says he will let Peter Crouch and Peter Odemwingie decide for themselves who should claim the hosts opening goal of the afternoon.
"I think Crouchy wants it for his initial effort, but Peter, who is a striker himself, will want to claim it to," he smiled.
"If I was him I would certainly be claiming it, but from my point of view it doesn't matter. I was just delighted to see it go in.
"That goal got us back in the game and from then on in we were able to control the tempo of the game and ultimately go on to collect the three points."