07 Aug 2022

Michael O’Neill pleased to see Stoke bounce back with win in first home game

Michael O’Neill pleased to see Stoke bounce back with win in first home game

Michael O’Neill was pleased by his Stoke side’s reaction after a comfortable 2-0 victory versus Blackpool.

Despite suffering defeat on the opening weekend of the season, the Potters enjoyed a bright opening period.

New recruits Dwight Gayle and Josh Laurent both threatened, with the latter striking the crossbar.

And it was another new addition who handed Stoke the advantage when Arsenal loanee Harry Clarke nodded in a Josh Tymon cross.

Josh Bowler and Callum Connolly both came close to finding a leveller but any chances of a Tangerine comeback were extinguished when Jacob Brown netted late on.

“Our attitude to the game was good, we showed composure and played with purpose as well,” said O’Neill.

“We scored two excellent goals and we’re pleased as it’s a good reaction because we’re disappointed with the start that we had last weekend.

“The only way we can be a team that can aspire to challenge at the top end of the league is with good home form. If you can win half the games in the league, you’re going to be very close to promotion.

“Emotionally, you lose or draw games that potentially you shouldn’t but certainly your home form gives you consistency and today’s a step in the right direction.

“The crowd here in recent years, since they’ve come out of the Premier League, you hope that you can bounce straight back, and the club hasn’t been able to do that.

“I think it’s really important that you have a strong relationship between the supporters and the team.

“We have to build that and there’s a responsibility on us as a group of players and management to put a team on the pitch that the fans can relate to.

“Hopefully they saw a team today that is much more like the Stoke team they want to see going forward.”

The visitors, who began their campaign with victory over Reading on the opening weekend, could not build on their positive start.

Jerry Yates could not get enough conviction onto a glancing header while a lively Bowler saw a curling effort drop narrowly wide of the target.

Boss Michael Appleton was realistic in his appraisal of his team’s performance.

He said: “From a result point of view, we probably got what we deserved because of the performance from the first half.

“It was way away from what I’d expect from any team that I manage in terms of being passive, lacking aggression, being brave and getting on the ball.

“The second half gave me encouragement; I thought we were much braver and far more competitive.

“We were far more dangerous, and we looked like we could score goals and put the opposition under pressure.

“We got a decent response at half-time, but the damage had been done in the first half – it was just the mentality side of it.

“There were one or two players that weren’t able to switch themselves on at half-time. When you’re at it and mentally sharp and focused, you tend to be more clinical.

“A couple of lads looked a little lethargic and didn’t know if the game was too big for them. Seventy per cent of the team showed me that they can deal with that pressure in the second half.

“I come away knowing that we got what we deserved but actually there’s a little bit of light there with more than half the group.”

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