Premier Analysis: Hammers show some steel to spoil Sparky's birthday
Four games unbeaten for Big Sam’s West Ham, who did it the hard way by coming back from two goals down to snatch a dramatic draw at the Britannia.
Mark Hughes, who had won seven of his previous 14 meetings with Sam Allardyce, looked set to celebrate his 51st birthday with three points after Victor Moses and Mame Biram Diouf powered Stoke into a two-goal lead.
But this season’s Hammers outfit are made of stronger stuff and showed some steel to claw their way back into the contest; Stewart Downing making one goal and scoring another in a 13-minute spell as the east Londoners scored for a ninth consecutive Premier League game; their best run in the competition since November 2009.
"I had to tell the players to change the game," Allardyce said . "They wanted to play our passing game, the way we have been playing recently up to now, but with the wind and pitch being a bit bobbly and with Stoke closing us down, it simply wasn't working."
Bojan and Moses both mustered 6 efforts on goal over the 90 minutes and it was they who teamed up for the opener, the latter bundling in from close range after Carl Jenkinson failed to clear.
The Potters comfortably out-shot the Hammers 21 to 10, but paid the price for not making more of their opportunities before West Ham’s second-half salvo.
"I thought we were excellent from start to finish really," said Hughes. "We didn't play particularly well in the first half against
"In terms of performance, that is arguably one of our most creative and dynamic performances this season so I am delighted with the manner of that performance.
"But we obviously need to convert more chances than we did today because we were by far the superior team today and in terms of quality and creativity.
"All in all, I can't criticise the guys too readily because I thought, as an overall performance, it was excellent, but we are scratching our heads somewhat, failing to understand how we didn't take maximum points."
Stoke’s two-goal lead lasted less than four minutes as Diouf’s 56th-minute header was matched by Enner Valencia, converting Downing’s inviting cross.
And it wasn’t long before the Ecuador forward returned the favour for the England winger to level things up with more than a quarter of an hour still to play.
"At 2-0 it was about changing the shape and getting the subs on that were going to give us an opportunity to get back in the game and find out whether Stoke knew how we were going to play," said Big Sam.
"We kept Downing in behind and put Valencia up front with Carlton Cole and we said to the players 'You have got to start moving the ball forward a bit quicker'. That quality shone through in the end.”
Alex Song was again industrious at the heart of the Hammers’ midfield, completing the most passers for the visitors and making the most ball recoveries (12). However, his tackling left a lot to be desired, winning 3/9.
While Geoff Cameron again stood out for the hosts. The American only recently returned to action against Swansea – playing a part in the winning goal – and here was a nuisance down the right hand side, completing 15/18 attacking third passes, 4/6 take-ons and 6/6 tackles, making 10 ball recoveries and 3 interceptions.
- Victor Moses scored his first Premier League goal since September 2013 when he netted for Liverpool against Swansea.
- Enner Valencia has now scored in 3 of 4 away games for West Ham in the Premier League this season, only failing to score at Old Trafford.
- Stewart Downing recorded an assist and a goal in the same game for the seventh time in his Premier League career and the first time with West Ham.
- Downing already has twice as many goals (2) and twice as many assists (4) this season as he managed in 32 games for West Ham last season.
- West Ham recovered from a 2+ goal deficit for the first time since coming from three down to draw 3-3 with West Brom in February 2011.
- West Ham have now scored in 9 successive Premier League games, their best run in the competition since November 2009 (10 games).
- Carlton Cole made his 200th Premier League appearance for West Ham in this match. Only 2 players Steve Potts (204) and Mark Noble (202) have featured more.
- West Ham have now scored 8 headed goals this season, more than any other side in the Premier League. They’ve also had the most headed shots (37).
- West Ham have managed just 1 clean sheet this season, a league joint-low figure along with Leicester.