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Mark Hughes backing Stoke to challenge for European place after Southampton win

By PA Reporter

Mark Hughes hopes Saturday's win at Southampton provides another step in Stoke's progression up the Barclays Premier League table.

Bojan Krkic's 10th-minute strike secured City's first win at St Mary's, and their first on the south coast in 35 years.

Southampton have led the charge of the teams chasing the traditional top-six clubs in recent seasons, but Hughes feels this could be the year Stoke overtake them.

"Southampton have done really well in recent years finishing top-10, top-eight, top-seven, and we haven't quite been able to catch them," said the City boss.

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"But maybe this is the season we'll be able to do that."

Stoke are rapidly becoming the top-flight's latest away-day specialists with three wins, three draws and just one defeat on the road.

They comfortably sat on Bojan's third goal of the season, a neat near-post flick from Erik Pieters' cross, and could have scored more but for some wayward finishing from Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic.

"We are doing okay on the road and we need to keep it going," added Hughes. "We have got a defensive platform which is helping us to get good results on the road."

Swiss winger Shaqiri impressed again until he had to be withdrawn in the second half with a slight hamstring problem, but Hughes said the move was precautionary.

"He had a little tightness and that was the reasoning behind taking him off when we did," the Welshman said.

"He wanted to go out and play the second half but it was important that we protected him a little bit, which is what we did."

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