Michael O’Neill: Stoke were not at their best but showed enough to win



Posted Sunday, September 12, 2021 by PA

Michael O’Neill: Stoke were not at their best but showed enough to win

Boss Michael O’Neill admitted his Stoke side were not at their best against Huddersfield but a 2-1 win saw them move third in the Sky Bet Championship.

Matty Pearson’s own goal proved the difference after Jacob Brown’s thumping header had cancelled out Harry Toffolo’s scrambled opener, with all of the goals coming early in the second half.

“We are delighted with the result,” said O’Neill, whose side have won all five home games this season in all competitions.

“We had to be patient. First half we had a lot of control but found it difficult to create clear opportunities against a well-disciplined team.

“Our reaction to going behind was excellent. We weren’t at our best today but showed enough to win the game.”

Stoke’s man-of-the-match was Mario Vrancic, who created both goals, and O’Neill believes his new signing from Norwich can be a big hit.

“Mario has real quality and has demonstrated that since he came to the club.

“You have to get him into the game and there was a lack of space first half. He is a key player for us. We knew if we could get him in it would be a big plus for us.

“Jacob Brown also gives so much for the team. He has had a really strong start to the season and his link-up play has improved considerably. It was a great header and he can create chances out of nothing.

“It is a young team with good experienced players around it, so there will be days like today when we are not at our best but we manage to play through those situations.

“We have hugely different options on the bench than we did last season. We had to address that as we had no real quality or speed to come on.

“We still have players to come back in so overall we have a really balanced squad and competition for places will be high and you need that to get consistency in the season.

“There is nothing better than winning at home. That is where your fans get to see you and they can be a big factor to help you get those wins.”

Huddersfield came into the game having won three on the spin, and manager Carlos Corberan was disappointed to see that run end.

“We knew we were playing a good, well-organised team,” he said. “In the first half we defended more than we attacked. We only threatened through set pieces.

“We didn’t really concede any chances but they have two strikers they use very well and that was dangerous. The team was good defensively. But we wanted to be more aggressive and create chances.

“I knew how important set pieces would be for them and they created danger. We didn’t defend it well. I still liked our performance more in the second half than in the first, even though we conceded twice.

“After conceding the second goal the team reacted very positively, but they were defending with five players. We had one very good opportunity.

“Stoke are patient with the ball and have three quality midfielders and two dangerous strikers. But we didn’t use our goal-kicks well enough to turn them around.

“We did manage the game better in the second half but conceded those goals.

“Josh Koroma is important for the team to create chances and score goals so we hope he keeps improving.

“Tom Lees was substituted because he was on a yellow card. He is a very good player and is competing now after missing pre-season. I hope he can play 90 minutes soon.

“We will check Danny Ward again tomorrow to see when he is back, and the medical staff will make that decision.”

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