Jones braced for juggling act
Jones helped the Potters secure a place in the Europa League group stage on Thursday night, netting a brace in their play-off second leg against FC Thun at the Britannia Stadium. Going into the game a goal up from last Thursday's initial meeting in Switzerland, Tony Pulis' side scored three times in the first half on the way to a comfortable 4-1 win on the night and 5-1 victory on aggregate. That put them into the hat for Friday afternoon's draw, which saw the Staffordshire outfit placed in Group E alongside Dynamo Kiev, Besiktas and Maccabi Tel Aviv. With six more fixtures pencilled in, Stoke - who are taking part in major European competition for the first time in 37 years - are having to learn fast how to handle the rigours of their new schedule. Their unbeaten start to the campaign indicates they are making a good job of it so far, but Jones has stressed the Potters must keep on top of things. "It's fantastic to be where we are right now, and to qualify for the group stages is a good achievement for the football club, but it's only a start and we can't afford to sit back and applaud ourselves," Jones told www.stokecityfc.com. "There is a lot of hard work in front of us now. European football is totally different to the Premier League, so the big thing for us now is to learn how to balance the two competitions, because games will come at us thick and fast. "We know our priority is still the Premier League, none of us will hide from that fact, but whilst we are in the Europa League we have the belief that we can go on and do very well in it, especially after what we've achieved so far. "The key for us will be how we can come off the back of a European match and get back down to business in the league. "It's an art that we need to master over the next few months if we are to do well." Jermaine Pennant provided both assists as Matthew Upson - netting his first Stoke goal on his home debut - and Jones headed past stand-in Thun goalkeeper Dragan Djukic in the 25th and 31st minutes. Glenn Whelan then extended the advantage further by drilling an effort in with seven minutes of the opening period remaining. Jones crashed home his second just under 20 minutes from the end before substitute Andreas Wittwer netted a consolation for the visitors. Thun boss Bernard Challandes admitted his side had struggled to contain Jones and Pennant. "Over the two matches it has been very hard," Challandes said. "There have been a lot of high balls threatening our goal a lot of the time. "I would like to compliment Jones on his performance - also in this match in particular, Pennant played very well. "We have paid the price, it is the fair to say. It was the difference between the two teams." Stoke return to league action on Sunday with a trip to West Brom. Robert Huth and Matthew Etherington are available again having both been suspended for the Thun match. Pulis withdrew Pennant in the second half last night as a precaution and hopes the winger will be fit to face the Baggies, while Rory Delap will also be assessed having been sidelined recently with a hamstring problem.