Kenwyne Jones hit the first Stoke City hat-trick in six years as the Potters eased through to the third round of the League cup with a 3-1 win over Walsall at The Britannia Stadium.
Mark Hughes stated before the game that he would play a stronger side than previously utilised under former manager Tony Pulis, and he didn't disappoint with the likes of Ryan Shawcross, Robert Huth and Jermaine Pennant maintaining their place. Brek Shea, Marc Munesia and Kenwyne Jones also made their first starts of the season.
The game itself wasn't seen as a spectacle and this was shown by the less than half full Britannia Stadium and the lack of noise coming for 'the loudest fans in the Premier League'. But, regardless of the support, the Potters did enough to secure a third round tie.
Jones succeeded in giving manager Hughes a selection headache ahead of Stoke's trip to West Ham on Saturday. The Trinidad & Tobago star scored two goals in nine minutes and will definitely have lifted himself up the pecking order, being the only Stoke striker to find the net this season.
Walsall tried to put up an attacking threat but goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen also had a point to prove to the new boss and looked to be all over anything that came his way.
The Saddlers best chance at a goal came from Charlie Adam's mistake letting Craig Westcarr through on goal, but Huth had it covered and Stoke kept the clean sheet at the interval.
The second-half got underway with two Stoke changes; Oussama Assaidi made his debut in place of Shea, while Marc Wilson replace Wilson Palacios.
Assaidi was straight into the action setting Charlie Adam up but his attempt was easily saved, and Glenn Whelan let fly from range.
For all their forward attacking Stoke still looked loose at the back and Walsall took advantage of this just 10 minutes after the restart with Ashley Hemmings firing past Sorensen to put the Saddlers right back in it.
Huth made an uncharacteristic mistake and almost gifted Westcarr the equaliser but Sorensen was their to pick up the pieces.
Shawcross was inches away from his second goal in as many games with a header from Jermaine Pennant's corner, and Stoke were still looking lethal from set pieces.
Stoke City's home grown defender Andy Wilkinson had the ball in the back of the net for the first time in his career with the club but agonisingly for him the offside flag was up.
Walsall's James Chambers missed one of the best chances of the half when he squandered a shot form 12 yards out.
Walsall pushed for the equaliser, introducing Troy Hewitt and James McQuilkin in place of Westcarr and Jason Baxendale.
But Stoke were the team on top and Huth proved this when he had the ball in the back of the net with a crisp header with defensive partner Ryan Shawcross but again the official denied Stoke the advantage.
Jones made sure seven minutes from time with his third of the night, firing the ball under the advancing Richard O'Donnell and almost single handedly taking Stoke through to the third round where they will face Tranmere at Prenton Park.
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