MATCH REPORT: Stoke City 1, QPR 0
Stoke City 1, QPR 0.
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Martin Spinks reports from the Britannia, Saturday
STOKE were grateful to a proper Charlie as they clinched only their second win of the season here at a relieved Britannia this afternoon.
For it was Charlie Adam showing a touch of his true self shortly after half-time to bury a rare chance and condemn Rangers to yet another loss.
It was hard going at times for Stoke and they were also grateful for Adel Taarabt's wayward finishing whenever QPR opened up a resolute home defence.
But it was all about the result this afternoon to buy some welcome breathing space between themselves and the bottom three.
No such luck for Mark Hughes, however, as his job remains perched on the cliff's edge after 11 games and no wins so far this season.
Stoke, showing two changes after recalling both Glenn Whelan and Matthew Etherington, began with purpose but precious little end product again in front of a supportive home crowd.
Their best moment in the first half-hour was an early Adam shot, but because he couldn't get the ball from out of his feet quickly enough his eventual effort was deflected at close quarters to send the ball fizzing the wrong side of a post.
Peter Crouch skewed horribly wide from left of goal with another effort, while Walters spun and ballooned over when seizing on a tough chance from a Crouch knock down.
Djibril Cisse mis-hit an attempted volley at the other end as QPR played with fluency and enterprise on the offensive.
Etherington, who took one for the team when blocking a right-wing cross in dangerous territory, fully deserved the applause which greeted his return to the pitch after prolonged treatment.
It was an afternoon for heroes to make their mark and Andy Wilkinson, still without a first-team goal, briefly threatened to break that duck when blasting a loose ball into a defender after QPR's half-clearance from a Whelan free-kick had landed at the defender's feet some 20 yards from goal.
The move of the half came on 37 minutes when Whelan and Geoff Cameron combined to release Steven Nzonzi for a great pull back from the right channel, but Crouch's shot on goal was half block tackled to leave the ball skidding narrowly wide of the near post.
Stoke should have been behind from a Rangers break just before the break, however, when Cisse and Junior Hoilett linked to leave Adel Taarabt gazing down on goal and somehow chipping off target as Asmir Begovic bore down on him.
Half-time: Stoke 0, QPR 0.
Having already swapped Adam to the right and shifted Walters inside to support crouch, manager Tony Pulis kicked off the second half with his full backs exchanging flanks.
And the half was almost seven minutes old when Stoke had their breakthrough courtesy of Adam.
It began with Robert Huth's free-kick being headed into the mix by Walters for Crouch to contest – and when the ball spun away from the last defender it was left for an unchallenged ADAM to pick his spot perfectly with that trusty left foot of his by stroking across the keeper and into the opposite corner.
Stoke couldn't rest on their laurels, however, and Taarabt brought the first save out of Begovic with a looping effort which had the keeper back-tracking to flick over.
Taarabt then stabbed wide after jinking past one challenge to open up the clear shooting chance as Rangers upped their game considerably.
The game was becoming far too stretched for Stoke's liking as Taarabt continued to exert his influence for a Rangers side playing with far greater urgency now.
And it wasn't long before Taarabt was worming himself clear of two players on the right to tee up Esteban Granero for a first-time shot that Begovic parried brilliantly away.
Pulis was concerned enough to bring on Dean Whitehead for Adam to fortify the middle of a pitch QPR were sweeping through far too often for comfort.
City were relying almost exclusively on the break to cause any damage and Michael Kightly produced a rare run at the opposition before shooting into a criss-cross of legs.
Stoke should have killed it in the 87th minute after Kenwyne Jones found space on the left and pulled the ball back on a plate for Kightly, but he insisted on taking a touch and his shot was subsequently blocked by the keeper's legs.
That left a tense finale to negotiate before pocketing those vital three points.
Begovic, Cameron, Wilkinson, Shawcross, Huth, Walters, Whelan, Nzonzi, Adam (Whitehead,77), Etherington (Kightly,71), Crouch (Jones,75). Subs: Sorensen, Palacios, Upson, Jerome.
QPR: Cesar, Bosingwa, Traore, Ferdinand, Nelsen, Hoilett, Granero, Diakite, Faurlin (Zamora,79), Taarabt, Cisse. Subs: Green, Derry, Hill, Wright-Phillips, Mackie, Onuoha.
Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorks).
Cards: Stoke – Nzonzi (foul,67), Whitehead (foul,90). QPR – Diakite (foul,45), Traore (foul,84), Granero (dissent,90).