Hughes delighted Joselu now proving worth for Stoke
Published 14/01/2016 | 12:51
Stoke boss Mark Hughes is delighted Joselu is now coming to prominence as the Potters look to sustain their momentum through a demanding period.
The Spanish striker recruited from Hannover over the summer marked his first Barclays Premier League start since October and fourth in total with a man-of-the-match performance, capped by a fine goal, in Wednesday's 3-1 home win over Norwich.
It added to the effort with which he broke his Stoke scoring duck in late December against Everton.
Joselu has featured in every match since then and Hughes said after the Norwich win: "He produced a great strike and we are really pleased - of late he has been really adding to the team.
"His contribution is quite marked at the moment. He is either creating chances or scoring them.
"We always felt it would come. I haven't been able to give him too many opportunities, but I just sensed of late he is getting to grips with what is required.
"His link-up play is good, but first and foremost what we see in training is his ability to strike and finish and thankfully that is coming to the fore as well."
Stoke are having a decent season, with Wednesday's victory - their third in four league games - taking them up to seventh.
As well as fixtures in both cups, the Potters have tough games on the horizon as they bid to consolidate that position in the table, their next three top-flight opponents being leaders Arsenal, second-placed Leicester and Manchester United.
Key winger Xherdan Shaqiri is set for up to two weeks on the sidelines due to a hamstring injury.
And regarding the importance of players previously on the fringes like Joselu now making their mark, Hughes said: "This period is going to test us in terms of the squad. We are going to need everybody."
Asked what he felt was realistic for Stoke's league campaign, Hughes said: "We don't really know, but this was a key result for us.
"Previously we have been mid-table and had opportunities to really settle into the top 10, but fluffed our lines.
"Thankfully we didn't do that and we find ourselves in seventh.
"We want to be in and around that position from here - then come March, April, let's see how close we can go."
Alex Neil's Norwich were reduced to 10 men around the half hour with the score still at 0-0 when Gary O'Neil was red-carded for an utterly needless slide tackle on Ibrahim Afellay.
Jonathan Walters put Stoke ahead shortly after the break, only for Jonny Howson to level within six minutes, before Joselu and a Ryan Bennett own-goal made it 3-1.
Neil - whose side are 15th, five points clear of the relegation zone - said: "Before the sending-off the game was relatively even. To shoot ourselves in the foot was extremely disappointing.
"This was a game I felt we could get something from, but when you go down to 10 men in the Premier League, it is always going to be a lot more tough."