The international break is traditionally dreaded among Premier League managers and for beleaguered Stoke manager Mark Hughes watching his countrymen play Austria on Thursday will have put him through the full range of emotions.
Being a Wales fan and former manager of the Red Dragons no less, seeing the Welsh secure a point from arguably their toughest Group D fixture in Vienna, is bound to have brought a smile to Sparky’s recently frown-filled features.
However it’s in his capacity as Potters boss Hughes will have felt the greater delight and turmoil rolled into one. His two representatives were the stars of the show, both getting on the scoresheet, yet the night ended prematurely for one.
For Wales, it was almost predictable that Joe Allen (a dormant goal machine reawakened by his summer move to Stoke) would come up with the goods as the Premier League strugglers’ leading scorer this season on two league strikes.
Allen’s left-footed arrow into the far corner exuded his newfound confidence in front of the onion bag, making it successive goals for his country as well as his club, yet his removal early in the second half put a dampener on proceedings.
A reported hamstring twinge has been cited meaning Allen is set to miss the forthcoming Georgia clash, yet the results of a scan could offer Hughes comfort that he’ll have his in-form midfielder back in action pretty soon.
Meanwhile, Marko Arnautovic’s brace-bagging man-of-the-match display for the Austrians would have offset the Allen news slightly where Stoke were concerned.
Like many of his teammates this season, the Potters top scorer of 2015/16 with 11 has endured a sluggish start this term, finding the target only once in seven Premier League starts.
Seeing ‘Arnie’ back to his penetrating best bodes well for the Staffordshire outfit, who sit 19th in the table having registered the joint-fewest goals.
As long as former Liverpool man Allen isn’t crocked for a significant period and the remaining qualifiers are kind to the rest of Hughes’ on-duty squad, it bodes well for a climb away from danger in the run up to Christmas.
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