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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Ireland star Jon Walters makes Sir Stanley smile in heaven

Jonathan Walters of Stoke City carries the matchball after the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Queens Park Rangers at Britannia Stadium
Jonathan Walters of Stoke City carries the matchball after the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Queens Park Rangers at Britannia Stadium

With his chin nuzzled into his coat as he attempted to escape the vile Staffordshire wind, Harry Redknapp slunk past Queens Park Rangers supporters as a beaten man once more.

For Mark Hughes, this was revenge. Two years after being sacked as QPR manager, he inflicted defeat on his old employers and extended Rangers' worst ever winless run on the road to 11 matches.

On the 100th anniversary of Stanley Matthews's birth, Jonathan Walters created modern history in becoming the first Stoke player to score a hat-trick in the Premier League era.

"If you look at the scoreline, you think we've been well beaten," Redknapp said. "But Stoke were hanging on for grim life at the end. Mark must have been hoping the whistle would go. I couldn't have asked for more effort."

QPR's domination was not quite as absolute as Redknapp suggested. The closest they came to scoring was a Joey Barton free-kick that struck the crossbar.

Rangers have lost every away game this season, the worst such run at the start of a top-flight campaign since Liverpool were relegated 61 years ago.

PROBLEMS

Redknapp believes his side need to improve in front of goal and admitted Emmanuel Adebayor "would do us" if Tottenham made him available. It is at the other end, though, where QPR seem to have most problems.

Karl Henry was substituted at half-time for his role in Stoke's first goal, surrendering possession to Stephen Ireland, whose back-heel set up Walters. The Irishman soon extended that lead with a shot low to Rob Green's left.

Though Niko Kranjcar's strike inspired hopes of a comeback, Walters punished QPR again in stoppage time. The Irishman is out of contract in the summer and is not certain to be offered a new deal. "But he's going the right way about it," Hughes said.

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