30 September 2023

I didn’t enjoy any part of that game, says Alex Neil after last-gasp Stoke win

30 September 2023

Stoke boss Alex Neil says he “didn’t enjoy any part” of his side’s 3-2 come-from-behind win at Bristol City.

A late strike from 18-year-old substitute Nathan Lowe capped a stirring Stoke fightback at Ashton Gate.

Bristol City looked to be on course for a comfortable win when Sam Bell fired them ahead from a near post corner after five minutes and Nahki Wells doubled the advantage 10 minutes later after intercepting a poor back pass from Ki-Jana Hoever.

But Mehdi Leris gave Stoke hope with a brilliant long-range strike after 25 minutes and two minutes after the break Sead Haksabanovic equalised with a low finish from a Hoever cross.

Lowe completed the fightback with a tap-in at the far post in the 89th minute, but Neil was in no mood to get carried away.

He said: “To be honest, I didn’t enjoy any part of that game. We have played miles better in virtually every other match this season. That’s the crazy nature of football and the Championship in particular.

“We couldn’t have made a poorer start, conceding from the sort of set-piece we had talked about defending and for the rest of the first half we played scared football.

“My half-time message was that we had to play without fear. What the players did show from then on was a collective spirit and determination, which ended up winning the game.

“What we can take encouragement from is the character shown. When things are going against you, it’s easy to start feeling sorry for yourself.

“There is no room for that sort of attitude and we got our rewards today because we didn’t let it happen. Hard work, grit and determination got us the win.

“Nathan Lowe has merited getting on the pitch and there is nothing nicer than when you throw one of your kids in and they get a goal.

“That certainly applies with Lowy, who loves the club. You don’t get a better feeling in football than seeing someone like that score a goal.”

Bristol City assistant Curtis Fleming admitted his side let Stoke back into the contest.

“In a way, we feel like we have been mugged,” he said. “If any team was going to win it in the second half, I always felt it would be us because we were on the front foot.

“But the truth is we haven’t defended well enough and that’s why we have suffered a kick in the teeth. We conceded weak goals, which is a problem we felt we had overcome.

“At Leicester in our previous game, players were throwing themselves in front of shots and putting their bodies on the line.

“That didn’t happen today. There is a lot of frustration in our dressing room and no one is happy.

“From 2-0 up we took our foot off the pedal a bit. It was all a little too comfortable, rather than playing with our usual intensity.

“It’s the sort of thing that was happening to us at times last season. Now we are in a better place to handle it and it’s all about how we react.

“You can’t afford to dwell on setbacks in the Championship because more tough games are just around the corner.”

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