Light at the end of the tunnel for Stoke

Posted by James Whittaker

Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty ImagesPeter Crouch came up big for Stoke against QPR scoring a goal and earning a penalty in the Potters' 2-0 win.

Stoke doubled their season's away win tally as they beat relegation certainties QPR 2-0 at Loftus Road.

It was ex R's striker Peter Crouch who hammered in what must be the penultimate nail in their coffin tapping in the opener after great work by Marc Wilson and Cameron Jerome and then winning the penalty that was converted at the second attempt by Jonathan Walters.

- Match report: QPR 0-2 Stoke

The Stoke faithful had been praying for a change in fortune and they got it as the side Tony Pulis put out showed intent, creativity and most importantly, heart, as they took advantage of the one side more nervous than themselves. It was QPR's anxiety and apprehension that allowed the Potters to get a foothold in the game. It forgave some early mistakes and the more the men in blue and white shot from impossible angles, the more their spirit and hope sapped and the more Stoke's grew.

It was clear that the team had been given different instructions and tactics than we have seen for much of the season and one player in particular thrived on the freedom he was afforded: Steven N'Zonzi. He was absolutely magnificent, putting in an all-action performance; popping up everywhere on the pitch, winning tackles in his own penalty area, picking the ball up and driving through the middle and lung-busting runs down the wing. He was brilliant. It's been a rough few months for N'Zonzi. Life in Pulis' midfield cage coupled with his own inconsistency has seen the Frenchman come under criticism of late and today's performance was a fitting retort to those who claimed he wasn't a player who would be up for a relegation battle.

His performance was such that we didn't really miss having any wingers on the pitch and the added quality in the middle of Charlie Adam, albeit he was poor today, visibly added to his confidence when moving into space or attempting a give-and-go. One of the reasons he was able to prosper so much was Cameron Jerome, who led the line superbly, causing problems with his pace for ex-Stokie Clint Hill all afternoon. It was a hot day and a heavy pitch so Stoke’s balls into the channel were actually finding some favour.

It's difficult to explain just how crucial this game was, not only for the points but for the performance as well as the relief and elation a win brings as the club head into their most winnable fixture next week. You'd think that a win against Norwich will be enough to secure Stoke's future in the Premier League for another season at least. Whether or not Pulis will be the man to lead the Potters out should that happen remains unclear, but today, much as I criticise him when deserved, I must also applaud him when he gets things right. While a couple of things dropped for us, it wasn't luck that won the game today, it was his and the players hard work this week and on the day having made important changes to our approach to make us competitive once more.

If the manager can keep that mentality and nurse the likes of Matty Etherington and Wilson back to health, then this nightmare run could come to an end as early as next week. Momentum is crucial at this stage of the season and today was a huge step towards the light at the end of the tunnel which tonight looks that little bit brighter.

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