A brave new era at Stoke City got off to the best possible start as Paul Lambert’s first game in charge delivered the precious victory that breathes fresh life into their troubled season. Joe Allen and Mame Diouf scored the goals that lifted Stoke out of the relegation zone and had Lambert manically running on to the pitch to celebrate.
The 48-year-old was way down Stoke’s original list of candidates to replace Mark Hughes and news of his appointment was not exactly welcomed by the supporters, yet few will be complaining if this result proves to be a sign of things to come. This was Stoke’s first win in five league matches and their first clean sheet since October.
Lambert, whose last game as a Premier League manager was almost three years ago, looked like he was determined to make up for lost time. The Scot paced up and down his technical area throughout, heading and kicking every ball and working himself up into such a sweat that he pointed to the bench and asked for a second bottle of water after only 15 minutes.
Stoke took rather longer to get going but they never looked back from the moment that Allen, the best player on the pitch, converted Eric Choupo-Moting’s cross eight minutes into the second half. Choupo-Moting was also involved in the second goal, which was clinically dispatched by Diouf with a little over 20 minutes remaining, and in effect killed the game on an afternoon when the Stoke fans rediscovered their voice. “I’m delighted for the players and the supporters,” said Lambert. “I thought they bounced off each other.”
Huddersfield, it has to be said, were obliging opponents. David Wagner’s side rarely troubled Jack Butland, the Stoke goalkeeper, during a listless performance and the large number of away supporters here could be forgiven for fearing that their season is starting to unravel a little. Huddersfield are 14th but only three points clear of the relegation zone and have now failed to win in six league matches. “It was a deserved defeat,” Wagner said. “We tried our best but Stoke limited our offensive game and were too aggressive for us today.”
Although both teams were poor in the opening 45 minutes, when Xherdan Shaqiri squandered an excellent chance to score on the stroke of half-time, Stoke improved significantly in the second half. The opening goal arrived after Charlie Adam’s lovely pass set Choupo-Moting free down the left and, although the forward’s cut-back eluded Diouf, the ball ran into the path of Allen, who steered a crisp first-time shot inside Jonas Lössl’s near post.
Stoke did not have to wait long for a second goal. Choupo-Moting fed the ball into the feet of Shaqiri, whose clever backheel released Diouf. One-on-one with Lössl, Diouf squeezed his low shot in off the upright and Lambert was running around with his arms aloft. “We won’t win every game but if we can keep that level of intensity, we’ll be fine,” the Stoke manager said.