Peter Hoekstra produced a quality individual performance as his hat-trick
guided Stoke to a crucial victory over Reading at the Britannia Stadium.
Hoekstra - without a goal all season prior to kick-off - found the net twice
in the space of eight first-half minutes before securing three
thoroughly-deserved points with a late penalty.
City had pulled themselves out of the relegation zone with an unlikely win
at West Ham on Tuesday and their survival hopes were given another massive
lift courtesy of a hugely-disappointing display from Reading.
John Eustace's booking after only three minutes for a foul on Nicky Forster
was the only moment of concern for City, who twice came close to taking an early
Darel Russell's 25-yard strike was well saved by Marcus Hahnemann and Gifton
Noel-Williams was also unfortunate to see a goalbound effort blocked by a crowd
Reading attempted to steady themselves but were restricted to a couple of
long-range shots from Forster, and another quick break from Stoke deservedly
broke the deadlock with 18 minutes gone.
Noel-Williams fed Hoekstra inside the box and the Dutch midfielder rounded
Hahnemann before driving the ball into the net.
Hahnemann then prevented his side from falling further behind, diving to keep
out a fantastic effort from Lewis Neal, but the American keeper was beaten again
by a stunning strike on 26 minutes.
Hoekstra's run down the wing was not tracked by the Reading defence and the
Dutchman produced a fantastic finish from outside the box which gave Hahnemann
Reading's hopes of a fightback were almost lifted within moments of the restart
when John Salako's shot was beaten away by Ed de Goey.
But Stoke always looked dangerous and Ade Akinbiyi should have added a third for Tony Pulis' team with 17 minutes to
go but hit his shot against the legs of Hahnemann, but Hoekstra did find the net
again to seal his hat-trick.
The midfielder was brought down by Nicky Shorey inside the box three minutes
from time and completed an excellent display by chipping the penalty over
Stoke: de Goey, Halls, Clarke, Thomas, Taggart, Hoekstra,
Russell, Neal, Eustace, Noel-Williams, Akinbiyi. Subs: Cutler,
Asaba, Marcus Hall, Commons, Johnson.
Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Shorey, Ingimarsson, Mackie, Watson,
Harper, Sidwell, Murray, Salako, Forster. Subs: Brown, Savage,
Tyson, Newman, Young.
Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).