Home sweet home.
Results at the Britannia have always been crucial to Stoke City's success, its reputation as one of the least gratifying away days in the Premier League a proud part of the club's identity. "Historically Stoke teams have been really difficult to beat here, and we've got to make sure that still applies," said Mark Hughes. There will be no revolution here: Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters still look most comfortable combining to make use of an aerial ball.
The new manager wants to create not a different Stoke, but a better one.
"It wasn't a case of 'listen, we want to play a different way'," Hughes said of his appointment. "I've looked at the players and thought they can play a slightly different way, without foregoing the parts of their game that have allowed them to be successful. We won't go in the opposite direction and not put the ball into the box when needed; that's part and parcel of the game. We want to keep that and try and build on others aspects of our play."
Charlie Adam said beforehand that "we want to play our way through the field now, and entertain people", and he was brought in to the starting lineup for that purpose. Crystal Palace had most of the pace and invention in midfield, however, and Stoke were best when they reset to default; their highlights in the first half were two Crouch headers, one over the crossbar and the other tipped on to the woodwork.
"We need a few extra faces," said Hughes, "possibly a bit more pace in the side, so we'll look for that type of player." Persuading the right kind of attacking midfielder to join Stoke will not be easy, however. "A lot of managers are looking at the same type of player. This has probably been one of the most frustrating [transfer] windows I've been in."
Palace's Ian Holloway went in at half-time pleased with what he had seen from his own new signings – José Campaña, Jason Puncheon and Dwight Gayle are still "finding their feet", but they promise the kind of wriggly attack associated with Holloway sides. Up front, the former Arsenal forward Marouane Chamakh scored his first league goal in almost two years, fending off Ryan Shawcross and coolly sidestepping Robert Huth to create the opportunity.
"He could have sat there and picked up his money at Arsenal, but he wants to come and play for me. He was training with Arsenal's youth team; hopefully he'll get a new lease of life," said Holloway who, by the full-time whistle, had concluded that he would need to add more players to the squad if Palace are to compete successfully.
Stoke were a different proposition after the break and the visitors wilted under the pressure. Either side of the hour mark Stoke scored goals to take a lead that rarely looked in danger.
"I don't like goals that roll in like that," said Holloway after Adam and Shawcross both turned in the ball from close range. "We've got to work as hard as we did in the first half all the way through the game. I need to get some more people in to help by the end of this week. We need a little bit more."
Man of the match Peter Crouch (Stoke)
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Ronnie Macdonald