Stoke City's belief that they can survive their debut Premier League season is growing virtually by the game. All the more so now they can see five teams beneath them, their reward for this second win in 14 league games being a four-place leap that also keeps Bolton Wanderers looking over their shoulders.
In Tony Pulis's 150th league game in charge, Stoke again looked a formidable home team and, with three bottom-five teams still to visit the Potteries, the portents are distinctly encouraging. "It's a smashing result and the supporters are sticking right with us," the manager said. "But there's a lot of football to be played, starting with a tough game at Everton."
Stoke derived further return on their £2.5m investment in James Beattie, who needed only 14 minutes to plunder his fifth goal in seven appearances. He owed much to poor defending as Glenn Whelan found a big hole down the middle with a headed pass that was driven emphatically past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Bolton are as reliant as Stoke on home form and have now taken one point from six trips away. But they could have been ahead when Matt Taylor whipped in a centre for Johan Elmander to test Thomas Sorensen. The keeper also clutched Taylor's shot and palmed aside his free-kick.
Stoke were strong, though, with Rory Delap's return from suspension adding to their aerial menace. He was warned for wiping his hands on a red towel before one of his monster throws skimmed off Ryan Shawcross's head inside the six-yard area.
Sorensen saved routinely from Gretar Steinsson and Mark Davies as Stoke became content to contain after half-time, then the killer blow came 18 minutes from the end, Whelan's stinging shot being blocked by Jaaskelainen after another Delap delivery and Ricardo Fuller tucking away the rebound.
Beattie sidefooted wide and Lawrence's corner was headed against the bar by Ibrahima Sonko, so Gary Megson's unhappy Potteries return could have been even worse. "We gave away a goal that had to be seen to believed and weren't good enough with all our possession," he said.
Goals: Beattie (14) 1-0; Fuller (73) 2-0.
Stoke City (4-4-2): Sorensen; Wilkinson (Sonko, 72), Abdoulaye Faye, Shawcross, Higginbotham; Lawrence, Diao (Amdy Faye, 66), Whelan, Delap; Beattie, Sidibe (Fuller, 56). Substitutes not used: Simonsen (gk), Pugh, Tonge, Camara.
Bolton Wanderers (4-5-1): Jaaskelainen; Steinsson (Makukula, 80), Cahill, O'Brien, Samuel; K Davies, Muamba (Gardner, 64), M Davies, McCann, Taylor; Elmander. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Smolarek, Puygrenier, Shittu, Basham.
Referee: M Dean (Wirral).
Booked: Stoke Wilkinson, Lawrence. Bolton O'Brien.
Man of the match: Whelan.
Attendance: 26,319.Reuse content