Stephen Ireland and Peter Crouch see Stoke safely through to the fourth round

Stoke City are through to the fourth round of The League cup where they will face Birmingham after a 1-0 win over Tranmere at Prenton Park.

Mark Hughes made six changes to the side that fell to Arsenal at the weekend as Marc Munesia came in for the injured Eric Pieters with Peter Crouch, Jermaine Pennant, Glenn Whelan, Stephen Ireland and Wilson Palacios coming into the team whilst Thomas Sorenson took over the gloves for his League Cup run out.

Ronnie Moore’s side were without injured quartet Jason Koumas, Andy Robinson, James Wallace and Jake Kirby, as well as resting the 40-year-old defender Ian Goodison.

Marko Arnautovic had his striking boots on again tonight as he tried his luck from 35 yards, but it was just wide of Fon Williams right hand post. Glenn Whelan followed suit, striking one from range but could only watch his effort sail over the crossbar.

Palacios and Ireland were played out of the game by Tranmere in the early stages as the League one club looked to combat the Premier League club’s new style of play.

Robert Huth jumped highest to knock the ball straight into the hands of the advancing keeper from Pennant’s in-swinging corner. Chances then came thick and fast for The Potters but they still had nothing to show for all of their pressure. But after some impressive link up play from the Aston Villa man and Arnautovic, The German played Ireland through on goal and struck it with his right foot first goal for Stoke on his first start.

Arnautovic was not happy with just an assist as he tried to flick another one on the outside of his boot from 25 yards out but again it was off target.

Tranmere had conceded eleven goals in their opening fixtures in League One, and tonight showed why with Stoke’s strikers running their defence ragged and Tranmere had no answer to any of Stoke’s attacks.

Crouch gave the ball away to Tranmere in what was one of their best chances of the half but Stoke were let off as Rovers were unable to capitalise.

Stoke were closing in on a second goal in the opening stages of the second half through Geoff Cameron and Peter Crouch but to no avail.

Tranmere were handed a lucky break in possession with Akpa Akpro  fancying a shot but it was never going to trouble Thomas Sorenson as his right foot effort soared over the cross bar.

Oussama Assaidi was thrown on in place of goalscorer Ireland (Who was holding his hamstring on the way off) in his first appearance since the 3-1 win over Walsall in the second round, but he didn’t have the same impact as a few weeks ago as Tranmere were on the counter attack with Chris Atkinson agonising striking the ball across the front of goal.

Jon Walters was introduced late on and had an instant impact, setting up Crouch before Assaidi tried his luck from range but neither could double Stoke’s lead.

Tranmere threw everything at Stoke in the last ten minutes whilst Hughes’s men tried to add to their solitary goal and their pressing paid off when Peter Crouch ran into the box unmarked and   slotted the ball past the goalkeeper for his first of the season.

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