After a run of one point from their last eight matches on their travels, West Ham United had a rare away win to celebrate yesterday. It was not pretty – it seldom is at the Britannia – but nobody could argue that the visitors did not deserve the victory that came their way thanks to Jack Collison's strike in first-half stoppage time.
It was a goal which provided a silver lining to West Ham's unhappy start to the game, when they lost both Matt Taylor – concussed after feeling the full force of a Peter Crouch attempted overhead kick – and the hamstrung Joe Cole inside 11 minutes.
In their place came Collison and Ricardo Vaz Te and that pair combined to conjure the game's decisive moment. "Our misfortune ended up as our good fortune today," Sam Allardyce, the West Ham manager, said. "Jack Collison and Ricardo Vaz Te coming on has helped us win."
The goal came when Vaz Te attempted a one-two with Andy Carroll on the edge of the Stoke box and although Ryan Shawcross got a challenge in, Vaz Te picked up the loose ball and played in Collison with a reverse pass. The Welshman did the rest, slotting low past Asmir Begovic. The Stoke manager, Tony Pulis, complained that Carroll had fouled Shawcross and pointed to "a definite handball" that the referee, Jonathan Moss, overlooked when the ball bounced up and struck Guy Demel's arm in the second half.
It was only Stoke's second home League defeat of the campaign but they have won only one in eight now and Pulis admitted: "We've gone a little bit flat and have to shake ourselves out of it. We need to get over the line and get 40 points."
The front cover of the day's Oatcake fanzine proved strangely prophetic, showing as it did a frustrated-looking Pulis and, beneath, the words "But we had two shots!". Stoke did have two shots on target here but not until Charlie Adam rattled the crossbar in the last minute did they actually look like scoring.
West Ham, despite the absence of Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble, carried all the threat. James Collins clipped the crossbar with a first-half header while Matt Jarvis was later foiled by the feet of Begovic and Vaz Te was guilty of over-elaborating when put through by Collison. In the end it did not matter. "We've come here today and tactically got most things right," purred Allardyce, whose team climbed to 12th place, level on 33 points with Stoke and nine clear of the relegation zone.