Two more goals from Tyrese Campbell helped secured a 4-3 win for Stoke City against Huddersfield.
Here are the talking points from a wind and rain swept bet365 Stadium.
An aggressive, cheeky Stoke side which is fun to watch
It was only a few weeks ago that Michael O’Neill was quizzed about Stoke being set up too negatively.
Since then they have scored 11 and conceded nine in six games. Of course, the defence could do with being tighter but they don’t necessarily, for the first time in what feels like a long time, need clean sheets to win.
Nick Powell, Steven Fletcher and Tyrese Campbell are the players largely responsible for that, a combination which offers aggression, skill, power and a lovely bit of naughtiness.
Fletcher is the kind of striker who will use a defender’s face to help himself get off the ground in one second and then pull off a dinky back heel the next.
Powell has a deft touch but he’s always first on the scene to a scrap and it’s his ability to nick the ball back in the final third which is proving so valuable.
Campbell is dynamite. Rarely have we seen a Stoke striker in recent years have so much belief that he is going to score.
“Hat-trick next time,” he was told on his way out of the bet365 Stadium after this game.
“Yeah, it’s about time I did,” he replied, with a near-certainty that it’s going to be on the cards sooner rather than later.
A memorable debut for Joe Bursik
There were a couple of big reasons for encouragement as Joe Bursik became Stoke’s youngest goalkeeper since 1990.
Never mind his age, he was happy to order around any of his teammates, regardless of whether they were Danny Batth, John Obi Mikel or Sam Clucas. You could hear him all through the game.
And he was in the right place to come out of his box to clear up loose balls. He took command with his feet.
He won’t have dreamed about letting in three goals but, in those conditions, getting out with a win is all-important.
The biggest shame was that when he ran out he didn’t receive what would have been a huge reception from the Boothen End. A 20-year-old keeper running up in an injury crisis would have been welcomed like a conqueror.
It’s a huge moment missed and hopefully, in some way or another, he’ll have a chance to soak in something similar hopefully sooner rather than later.
A division there for the taking
Just look at that Championship table.
Stoke are in seventh – their highest position since May 2018 – and one point outside the play-offs with 22 points from 12 games. The next three above are on 22, the two above them are on 23.
Norwich will come to the Potteries as league leaders on Tuesday and they’re only three points better off and two on goal difference.
The table is going to be like a revolving dance floor over the next six weeks up to the New Year and the teams with the most sensible shoes are probably going to be the ones left standing.
Consistency will win. If you have a good wind with injuries – and it’s a blow to lose Adam Davies and Angus Gunn – anything can happen.
Stoke have now scored three or more in 11 of Michael O’Neill’s 43 league games in charge.
Stoke have picked up 69 points in those 43 games. Swansea took the last play-off spot last season with 70 points from 46 games.
The wins over Reading and Huddersfield were Stoke’s first back to back league wins of the season.
Stoke have now scored one, two, three and four in consecutive matches. Roll on Norwich on Tuesday.
Joe Bursik was the youngest goalkeeper to start a league game for Stoke since Danny Noble, now aged 50, played in a 1-1 draw with Swindon on the final day of 1989/90, when the side had already been relegated.
It was Stoke’s first 4-3 league win since December 2015 and that thriller at Everton when Xherdan Shaqiri scored a unique volley and Joselu hugged Mark Clattenburg before Marko Arnautovic slipped while netting an injury-time penalty.
The most recent ones before that were away at Preston in 1998, at home against Millwall in 1995 and at home to West Brom in September 1992.