Juggling three competitions and with seven games looming within a month, you can either embrace the demands, or be cowed by them. On this showing, the Stoke players only appear emboldened by the task.
Life can't get much better for Stoke. They sit in the top half of the league, remain unbeaten in the early exchanges of their Europa League adventure and are in the last 16 of the Carling Cup. All of this is new to the Potters and, as Tony Pulis's squad are discovering, competition for places remains as fierce as it has ever been at the Britannia Stadium. This is no more apparent than in the Stoke defence. It was the turn of Matthew Upson's audition and he summed up the changing times at the club.
"You have to be on the peak of your game if you want to get into this team," he said. "I made a slow start because of waiting for my transfer and I am playing catch up.
"There are no complaints about the way the rotation system is being used," Upson added. "Everybody knows the amount of fixtures coming up."
While this latest victory came late over Fulham, neither side deserved to win a poor game which was littered with mistakes. Fulham will certainly feel hard done by after seeing John Arne Riise's 78th-minute free-kick rattle the crossbar and then watching Jonathan Walters turn home Matt Etherington's shot from close range two minutes later. The same player then crossed for Delap to head home with three minutes left.
Ironically, the breakthrough came when rare room was afforded at the edge of Fulham's penalty area within seconds of Danny Murphy, who would have been positioned there, hobbling off injured. Murphy was roundly booed by the home fans for publicly criticising Stoke's style last season, and the Fulham manager, Martin Jol, said: "Murphy had a knock. He came off, he brought himself off because of the injury."
Scorers: Stoke City Walters 80, Delap 87.
Substitutes: Stoke Whitehead (Pennant, 82), Diao (Etherington, 90), Fulham Duff 6 (Dembele, 35), Etuhu (Murphy, 80), Sa (Johnson, 84).
Booked: Stoke Delap, Whelan, Upson. Fulham Duff, Baird, Murphy.
Man of the match Etherington
Match rating 3/10.
Possession: Stoke 45% Fulham 55%.
Attempts on target: Stoke 6 Fulham 1.
Referee M Atkinson (West Yorkshire). Attendance 26,890.Reuse content