An evergreen Phil Jagielka marked his 600th league start with a goal as Stoke comfortably defeated Huddersfield 3-0 in the Championship.
The 40-year-old haunted his former Sheffield United boss Neil Warnock, who is set to take over in the Terriers’ hotseat on Thursday upon his return to the country.
The visitors came close to a leveller before the interval when Tom Lees’ effort struck the crossbar, but Will Boyle’s second-half sending off disrupted their momentum.
Any chance of a comeback was distinguished when Jacob Brown doubled Stoke’s lead before substitute Lewis Baker added a late third from the penalty spot.
Huddersfield’s wait for a win in 2023 stretches to eight games ahead of 74-year-old Warnock’s return to the club.
A misfiring Stoke side, who had failed to score in four of their last six league games, started promisingly as they looked to assume control.
Tyrese Campbell advanced forward with purpose inside 60 seconds and blasted a powerful effort wide in an early threat to the visitors.
That warning sign was not heeded by the struggling Terriers, who soon found themselves behind in the fixture.
A deep Will Smallbone delivery was met by an imperious Jagielka, whose pinpoint header looped over a helpless Tomas Vaclik.
Sensing an opportunity, the Potters rallied in pursuit of a quickfire second but were frustrated by Czech Republic international Vaclik’s heroics.
The 33-year-old stopper – a January recruit from Olympiacos – first thwarted Campbell before then denying Ben Pearson a debut goal.
Stoke’s danger showed no signs of relenting and Huddersfield were indebted to their number one, who ensured the tie was still within reach by the half-hour mark.
A persistent Dwight Gayle hooked an accurate delivery for strike partner Brown, but the outstretched Scotland forward also could not convert beyond Vaclik.
Despite their authority in the first half, the home side nearly had their wastefulness punished moments before the interval.
As Lees rose highest to meet a late corner, the defender connected cleanly but saw his header ricochet off the top of the crossbar.
Interim boss Narcis Pelach’s second-half game-plan was then unsettled by a second yellow card for Boyle, who was sent off for catching Gayle with a flailing arm.
And the Potters soon capitalised on their numerical advantage with Brown tightening their grip on the game.
A Campbell cutback wreaked havoc in the area and Brown eventually buried his effort beyond Vaclik for his fourth goal in seven games.
The 533 travelling Terriers had to wait until stoppage-time for their first shot on target as they remain entrenched in the relegation zone.
And their evening was worsened when Baker’s powerful penalty ensured Stoke extended their unbeaten home record to four games in all competitions.
Stoke’s Alex Neil:
“Jagielka’s been incredible for us. He’s 40 years of age and to put that into context, I’m 41, which makes me feel horrific. He’s an absolute credit to himself with what he’s done over his career. We’re fortunate to have him and you just wish he’d got more years in him. He’s been brilliant for us and I can’t speak more highly of him. He’s great around the place, good on the pitch and understands the game; all I need to do is point him in the right direction.
“I thought the early goal settled us down and from then until half-time, we should’ve put the game to bed. I thought we were more than good value for our lead at half-time and the sending off affects the game from then. It was going to be a really important three points for both teams. It now puts us nine points away from Huddersfield. The job’s not done – and we need to keep going – but I think tonight was a big step for us. There are still another 15 games to go and a lot of points to fight for. We now want to finish the season strongly and work our way up.”
Huddersfield’s interim boss Narcis Pelach:
“It was a difficult night; we didn’t compete well. First half, we were out of the game. The Championship demands a level of competitiveness that we didn’t give. It wasn’t enough in any phase of the game; it was clear to see for everyone. But with Neil in the building, we know that we’re going to be better. He’s the man who can help us to get better. We’re looking forward to tomorrow and getting to know him. I think his appointment has given us a lift; today, from speaking to the players and from when I talked to him this afternoon.
“He’s a man with energy, experience and knowledge; this is what we need now. We’re waiting for him and the players and staff are ready to work for him; I think he’s the man we need right now. He knows the league and knows football and I think he can give the right answer to the team. We’re getting one of the best coaches who knows exactly what is needed and tomorrow’s a fresh start now. mWe have to forget about everything else; let’s back Neil now, get behind him and let’s go altogether to get the points that we need.”