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Ireland strikes to help Stoke progress at Rochdale

STOKE City boss Mark Hughes was full of praise for his players as goals from Stephen Ireland and Jonathan Walters helped City ease past Rochdale and into the next round of the FA Cup.

Stoke will now face Blackburn Rovers away from home in the fifth round thanks to last night's 4-1 dismissal of a Rochdale side, for whom Dubliner Stephen Dawson was impressive in midfield.

Bojan Kirkic - who was later substituted with a worrying injury - put the Premier League side ahead after only four minutes and Ireland made sure of the win with a second goal on 52 minutes, Victor Moses adding a third on the hour mark.

Rhys Bennett pulled one back for Rochdale but Walters scored his seventh goal of the season in the final minute to seal the win for Hughes' side.

"It was a good result which came as a consequence of what I thought was a pleasing performance," said Hughes. "They closed us down really well in the first half, but after the break we managed to get to grips with them a lot better because we talked about putting them on their back foot a lot more.

"In the end I think the quality of our play and goals enabled us to take the game away from them, so we are delighted by that.

"In different ways, all of our goals were top drawer, I would suggest. Obviously, we are very pleased with that because it shows we have great variation in our play, which is important.

"We can score different types of goals from different stages of play, so we have to continue to do that over the remainder of the season."

Rochdale boss Keith Hill felt that his League One side emerged with credit.

"We tried to attack with intent, we tried to press the opposition, but with respect to the opposition they're an excellent side," Hill said.

"At times the game is marginal, no matter where you stand in the football pyramid, and it was tonight, but fair credit to Stoke. I think they managed the occasion well and were worthy winners in the end.

"If we perform like that, then the majority of the time we get a result but it's very difficult against opposition from the Premier League. They managed the game well and they took our energy away from us with the timing of the goals," added Hill after the game.