Match-winner Pennant makes most of Stoke reprieve

REUTERS - Stoke City's Jermaine Pennant was praised by manager Mark Hughes on Saturday with the winger's freekick having earned a 1-0 Premier League win at West Ham United just months after he was released and then re-signed by the club.

The 30-year-old, who has often been accused by fans and the media of not making the most of his undoubted talent, was on his way out of the Midlands club at the end of last season when a deadline to extend his contract passed and he was let go.

When Hughes replaced Tony Pulis as Stoke boss however, Pennant, who joined Arsenal for 2 million poundsas a 15-year-old and later moved to Liverpool, was handed a reprieve in the form of a new one-year deal.

He went some way towards repaying his manager's faith with his first goal since 2011 when he curled in an 82nd-minute winner after enduring a miserable 18 months at the club.

"Things hadn't worked out as well as Jermaine would have hoped over the last couple of seasons but I didn't want him to come back to the Britannia Stadium with another club," Hughes was quoted as saying on the Stoke website (www.stokecityfc.com).

"Jermaine is a smashing lad. He always comes into training with a smile on his face, works hard and is desperate to do well. He's got great ability and because of that there's always a chance that he will win a game for you."

"Jermaine is a talented boy, and I'm really pleased that he's still with us. I know he's had his problems in the past but since I've come through the door he's been excellent, and he is always a threat with his natural ability," Hughes told the BBC.

Hughes was appointed to bring a new style of play to a team that were always hard to beat under Pulis but often accused of playing a long ball game and failing to entertain.

After losing their opener at Liverpool, Stoke have won their next two league matches to move up to fifth in the table.

"I was aware that West Ham had a really good home record and it's a difficult place to come to but I have to say it was a great performance by us, near perfect in fact," Hughes said.

"I thought we were in total control of the game and were in no danger of conceding. We always looked a threat with our progressive play and with a little bit more of a cutting edge we possibly might have won the game by more."

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce said he was shocked at his side's below-par performance after an encouraging start to the season with a win at home to Cardiff and a draw at Newcastle.

"Stoke go away with the three points and there's not a lot of arguing I could do against that because we just didn't get to the level we know we can. Because we didn't do that, we didn't put Stoke City under any real pressure," he told West Ham TV.

"...they scored after a sloppy bit of play by ourselves giving the ball away in our own half and then giving the freekick away. Obviously, the technical part of Jermaine Pennant's freekick was superb, but we should never have let ourselves get into that position.

(Reporting by Toby Davis; editing by xxx)

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