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Stoke City continued their dominance against West Bromwich Albion as substitute Dean Whitehead scored a late winner in a 1-0 win at The Hawthorns. Whitehead converted a cross from fellow substitute Michael Kightly to earn Stoke their first away Barclays Premier League win since January.
Tony Pulis’ side have taken 13 points from the last five games, while for West Brom it was a second setback in the space of 72 hours following Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss at Swansea.
Stoke’s victory means Albion have failed to defeat them in front of their own fans for nine years and they have triumphed only twice in the last 30 league meetings. They have won all four Premier League encounters at The Hawthorns without conceding a goal.
Kenwyne Jones made his first Premier League start of the season in place of the injured Peter Crouch and was a constant threat to the West Brom defence. Albion drew a blank at home for the first time this season and seldom looked like finding a way through the Stoke back four in which skipper Ryan Shawcross stood out.
Youssouf Mulumbu gave his usual solid display in midfield while defender Gareth McAuley made several crucial challenges. But Albion lacked their usual spark in the attacking third of the pitch as they missed the opportunity to reclaim third spot after Chelsea’s lunchtime defeat against West Ham. West Brom head coach Steve Clarke made six changes from the side beaten at Swansea in midweek and handed a debut to Sweden striker Markus Rosenberg.
Jones came close to breaking the deadlock in the 14th minute after a quiet opening to the game. The Trinidad & Tobago forward got on the end of a cross from Geoff Cameron and directed his header back across goal and only inches wide of a post. Shawcross produced a fine tackle to halt the run of Graham Dorrans on the edge of the Stoke box after a reverse pass from Rosenberg.
Robert Huth blocked a fierce drive from Mulumbu after Dorrans had found him in space but neither goalkeeper had a save to make in the opening half-hour. Huth became the first player to be yellow-carded after 35 minutes for bringing down Shane Long. Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic had to back-pedal to parry a speculative dipping 40-yard attempt from Steven Reid over the bar.
Charlie Adam became the second Stoke player to be booked a minute before half-time for a foul on Zoltan Gera. Shawcross followed him into referee Kevin Friend’s notebook shortly after the restart after bringing down Long.
Begovic dealt comfortably with Jonas Olsson’s looping header from Long’s cross as clear-cut chances continued to be at a premium. Pulis replaced Matthew Etherington with Kightly after 59 minutes. Clarke then brought on forwards Romelu Lukaku and Peter Odemwingie for Rosenberg and Gera. McAuley produced a superb tackle inside the West Brom box to halt Jones in full flight.
But after 75 minutes Stoke broke the deadlock after a mistake by Jonas Olsson. The centre-back tried to keep the ball in play when challenging Jones but only succeeded in finding Kightly. He ran into the Albion area and his low cross was turned home by Whitehead. Begovic parried a Dorrans drive but Stoke held out for the three points.
West Brom head coach Steve Clarke: "To be honest it was the kind of game we thought it might be. The two teams cancelled each other out. It was a game of few chances. We spoke before and said it was probably a game of one chance.
"We said the same at half-time and unfortunately for us the chance fell to Stoke. Jonas made the decision to take the ball out to the touchline. For me, it's a defender's decision. He is on the pitch, he has to make that call, he made the right call.
"He made a good challenge on Jones. Unfortunately when the ball went down the line it went to Kightly. How critical do you want to be of players? That's not correct. It was not a mistake."
"If anyone said [six changes] is why we lost the game, they would be wrong. The changes were made at the end of difficult week with two long away trips to the north east and south Wales. The boys who played in the two away games put in a lot of effort and I thought it was right time to freshen team up."
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis: "We've been fortunate with the substitutes during the last two games. We changed it on Wednesday and Cameron [Jerome] came on and made one and scored a great goal for us. Then that has happened today with the guys combining for the goal. Sometimes that happens for you. I've not turned into a genius. It's just the little bit of luck you need.
"Obviously the monkey [of not winning away] is off our back. We've had four draws away from home this season and we could easily have won a couple of those games and it hasn't just fallen for us. It is always nice to get the first win and I'm really pleased."
"I haven't got a clue why Stoke do so well at West Brom. I've been here for 10 years and think I only lost once when Gary Megson was manager. It might have been my first year and we had Karl Henry sent off that day. Apart from last year, when they beat us at the Britannia Stadium, we seem to have it over on them."
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