MARK HUGHES praised the character of his Stoke City side after they moved into the top ten in the Premier League with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at the Britannia Stadium.
Second half goals from substitute Charlie Adam and Peter Crouch earned the Potters a second successive home league win for the first time this season.
Adam fired them in front just five minutes after joining the action as a substitute and after Libor Kozak had capitalised on a mistake by Erik Pieters to haul Villa level, Crouch bagged the winner to lift Stoke to 10th in the table.
Hughes told stokecityfc.com: "We're happy where we are. It was a big win for us and it sets us up nicely for the Christmas period.
"It was a little bit difficult for us to get a foothold in the game in the first half; we had the wind in our faces and didn't really get on the front foot and get a platform to build a performance.
"We made a change at half-time and I think that probably helped us. Charlie came on and scored, which set up the half very nicely for us and we were very much on the front foot then.
"We had to pick ourselves up with the disappointment of the equaliser but I was really pleased with the reaction of Erik himself and his team-mates, who rallied round him and picked him up very quickly. That was important for us.
"Then we were able to score a great goal at the other end to restore our lead. Our second half performance was very good from our point of view We showed a lot of character but that doesn't surprise me because I've got a great group of players."
Hughes reserved special praise for match-winner Crouch, who came close to bagging a brace only to be denied by the woodwork.
"Peter gives us a focus to our attacking play," the manager added. "I played that role for many years, with my back to the goal and I know that it can be a thankless task on occasions. Sometimes you have to take hits for the team and that's what he did today.
"Peter is an accomplished player; he has been playing at this level for a long time now and you don't do that unless you are a very good player."