Unlike his Aston Villa counterpart, Stoke City manager Mark Hughes is unequivocal in his view that Premier League teams do need the FA Cup, and he was rewarded for his commitment when his team withstood a late Leicester fightback to reach the fourth round.
Stoke looked comfortable leading 2-0 going into the final quarter of the game before a double substitution by Leicester manager Nigel Pearson gave the Championship leaders fresh purpose.
One of the substitutes, leading scorer David Nugent, put Leicester back in contention with a headed goal that subjected Hughes to a slightly more nervous final 13 minutes than he might have envisaged. However, Jack Butland, the England Under-21 goalkeeper making his first start for Stoke, was alert enough to prevent Lloyd Dyer, the other half of Pearson’s double change, converting Leicester’s best chance to force a replay.
Hughes, who had made it clear before the game that he did not share Paul Lambert’s view that most Premier League managers “could do without” the FA Cup, was true to his word, making only three changes from the side that took a hard-fought point from Everton on New Year’s Day in Stoke’s fourth game in 11 days.
“I thought it was important to show respect for the opposition, and with no Premier League game until a week on Sunday, I felt I could keep a strong team,” Hughes said. “And with Jack making his debut I thought it was important to have a settled back four in front of him.”
It was slightly ironic then that Kenwyne Jones, who does not normally figure in his Premier League side, gave Stoke the lead, heading home from Oussama Assaidi’s cross after 13 minutes. Jones, who was Stoke’s record signing when he joined for £8 million in August 2010, had not scored in the Premier League for more than a year.
Stoke looked comfortable when Charlie Adam doubled their lead 10 minutes into the second half, beating Kasper Schmeichel with a 30-yard screamer that went in off a post. Schmeichel then denied Jones a second, tipping another header against the woodwork before gathering the ball at the second attempt.
Leicester, whose only failing, in Pearson’s view, was not to keep the ball as well as they could have, responded well after Nugent and Dyer entered the fray with 22 minutes left, but after Nugent had headed in from Marcin Wasilewski’s cross, Butland did well to save at Dyer’s feet to ensure Stoke went through.
Stoke City (4-2-3-1): Butland; Cameron, Shawcross, Wilson, Pieters; Nzonzi, Whelan; Armautovic, Adam, Assaidi (Walters, 80); Jones.
Leicester City (4-3-1-2): Schmeichel; De Laet, Wasilewski, Miquel, Konchesky; James, Hammond, King (Dyer ,68); Knockaert; Schlupp (Nugent, 68), Vardy (Waghorn, 77).
Referee: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).
Man of the match: Adam (Stoke)
Match rating: 6/10
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