And we managed to upset Tony Pulis...

Now that wasn't too bad was it? A trip to the dreaded Britannia stadium and all it's charms...and the best bit was upsetting one-eyed Tony Pulis.

The delightful manager of Stoke City, who doesn't flinch at sending out his thugs to kick, maim and cheat each week, actually complained that one of his players - that delicate flower Ryan Shawcross - was fouled by Andy Carroll in the build-up to Jack Collison's impressive winner on Saturday.

Now when you have all stopped laughing, I'll continue. Shawcross has more broken (opponents) bones on his CV than any of the Krays muscle from the 60s. Aaron Ramsey springs to mind.

And he is the worst exponent in the Premier League of the grabbing, holding, shirt-pulling nonsense in the penalty box that is closer to tag-team wrestling than football. So when he comes off worse in a scrap with Carroll - they were both at it, to be fair - there is very little sympathy.

But for Pulis to stand, straight-faced in front of the cameras and moan about it all, was just priceless. And he also complained about two penalties not given. One was a first-class tackle from the outstanding Joey O'Brien and the other was certainly not an intentional handball by Guy Demel. And there has to be intent these days, Tony!

Just for a change we had a decent referee there in the shape of Jon Moss. Far, far better than the disgraceful Mike Jones who was in charge of our last visit to the Potteries in the FA Cup two seasons ago, when if you all remember, we lost because Thomas Hitzlsperger was dragged to the ground in our defensive wall by a Stoke player when they scored their winner.

What goes around, comes around is my only thoughts on Pulis, and the sound of pots and black kettles clanking together could be heard as the Stoke manager left the stadium.

And the Staffordshire Police, my personal favourites over many years of being treated like a sewer rat on away trips, seem to have had a nice cuddly makeover.

I recall ranting on KUMB about the dreadful treatment away fans suffer at Stoke. Locked in a high-fenced compound behind the away stand a the end of matches, complete with a very noisy helicopter hovering overhead. Total overkill.

I now know what the Vietcong must have felt like in the Mekong delta when the American gunships were coming in! Being at Stoke can be like starring in one of those American war films.

This time there was no chopper and we were all ushered politely onto double-deckers parked in the said same compound, by nice, smiley cops, who then took us in convoy back to the station with outridders holding up the traffic. A good singalong was had by all as we waved at less-than-chuffed Stokies.

It had been a very good day. Our dreadful away performances at Aston Villa, Fulham, Sunderland and Reading of late did not fill our 2,900 contingent with much confidence. But our team stood up to all of Stoke's nonsense and ran themselves into the ground to ensure a priceless victory.

I'm not sure I can agree with Shearer and Hanson on MOTD, who insist we are safe and what a great job we have done. Do they do any research and check the table and future fixtures before pontificating such nonsense?

We are not safe, and our players realise it. Nine points (plus one for the better goal difference) is a good lead, but we now have just one game (at Chelsea) until Easter's visit of WBA to the Boleyn, and that nine points could be severely cut by then.

Big Sam thinks we need 36 points. He has obviously forgotten the 42 points that still got us relegated back in 2003. We need 37 minimum and 40 to be certain, so lets keep battling away. We don't want to still need something on the last Sunday at home to Reading, with their record against us over the last few seasons.

But Sam, who managed a crossed arms Hammers salute to the travelling fans -I have not seen him do that before - had his team very well prepared for Stoke's shenanigans. In seasons past we would have crumbled under such long-ball bullying, but not this time.

Having lost Joe Cole and Matt Taylor - wasn't Crouch's flying boot dangerous play and deserving of a card? - in the opening minutes, it could all have gone pear-shaped. But Collison and Ricky Vaz Te were excellent.

Both have been out of the side of late, and maybe wanted to make a point. But funnily enough, the substitutions left us with probably a stronger side to confront Stoke with than the one that started. Vaz Te played between the lines in a Kevin Nolan role and his power and running ability were crucial.

As was Mo Diame's display of strength and running. He was outstanding, covering acres of ground in possession and being more than a match to the tough-guy stuff Stoke utilise.

And up in the South Stand, the Irons fans had a great day, Twisting and Shoutin' their way to victory. I have never understood why we sing the Beatles classic, maybe because it was a 60s song from our greatest era. But it sounded great on TV. If anyone has a good theory on this subject, feel free to let me know.

All in all a great day out. It's one of our closest away games, me and the lad can drink in the local before a 15 minute train ride. We were joined this time by my son's brother-in-law's new fiancee, Maddie, a Stoke fan for her sins.

She will be a welcomed addition to the trip in future. She can handle a vodka or three, and didn't flinch when expected to down a can of lager in a scruffy car park next to a giant Biffa waste container (we know how to treat a girl!)

You see, we'd been thrown out of a wedding reception at the hotel opposite the station. Usually they allow away fans in, so we marched happily through reception and found a very busy bar. But it began to dawn that it wasn't just a match day crowd.

The fact that the bride was standing in the queue at the bar just behind us did ring a few alarm bells. We made a quick exit, stage left, and were ushered out by a weak-wristed hotel manager. Hence the party in the car park. And Maddie was still able to smile at us when we picked her up after the game.

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