Michael O’Neill: We made life more difficult for ourselves than was necessary
Stoke boss Michael O’Neill admitted his side took him through the wringer as they clung on for a battling home win against Sky Bet Championship promotion hopefuls Brentford.
Goals from Steven Fletcher, James McClean and Tyrese Campbell did the damage as O’Neill’s impressive team held on to triumph 3-2 at the bet365 stadium.
But substitute Marcus Forss pulled a goal back with 20 minutes remaining and bagged a second in stoppage time in a frantic finish to proceedings.
“You’d taken any win before the game regardless of the scoreline, but when you’re 3-0 up we made it a lot more difficult than was necessary,” admitted O’Neill.
“At that point in time Brentford committed a lot of men going forward and you have to defend, particularly in the last 10 minutes when they were coming forward very direct.
“Unfortunately young Josh (Tymon) made a bad decision and we’re penalised for the second goal, otherwise I think it would have been a bit more comfortable to be honest.
“It’s a poor mistake from him, he should have played the ball forward. Maybe it was a little bit of inexperience on his part.
“But there are lot of positives. To be 3-0 up against a team of Brentford’s calibre was very pleasing.
“I thought we handled the game excellently. We pressed really well and always looked a threat. I thought our front three were terrific.
“I thought we had a lot of attacking threat and running power – and got a lot of joy down the sides.
“We’ve talked a lot about threatening the space behind. I think the system we have… well we need to have that pace in the wide areas and it helped us today.”
And Northern Irishman O’Neill showered special praise on striker Fletcher after the former Scotland international bagged his second goal in three league games.
“He’s 33, but that’s still young to me,” said O’Neill. “What you get is quality. That quality never diminishes with Steven.
“He loves that area for scoring and scored a similar goal against Luton last week.
“His all-round game was excellent. He’s brought a lot to the club, not just on the pitch but he’s brought a lot off the pitch as well.
“He’s in great nick for his age and I think that shows how he plays. He’s brought a great response from the lads in the dressing room.”
Frustrated Brentford boss Thomas Frank admitted his team were beaten by the better side, but is optimistic the results will come for last season’s play-off finalists.
“On the day we lost to a better team overall,” admitted Frank.
“We started very slow in the first half, played with no initiative, no tempo and too many touches.
“And then we don’t help ourselves with their opening two goals. We need to defend better in both situations, especially the first goal, which is somewhere we normally do better.
“In the second half we started better and showed more tempo and more initiative, and played more behind them (Stoke).
“We got into the game, but then gave ourselves a mountain to climb by conceding a third goal.
“After that we showed decent personality in terms of coming back and coming close to maybe getting a lucky draw.
“It’s disappointing we couldn’t start quicker or better, but for whatever reason we know Stoke are well organised and rarely give anything away.
“I said to the boys I thought it would be a 0-0 game which we would win 1-0 in the end, but for whatever reason it ended up 3-2. I think that’s a little bit of freak result between these two teams.”
Substitute Forss nearly salvaged a battling draw with a bright double and Frank praised him, saying: “We have two really good strikers who are competing and who can help the team.
“The link-up play between Ivan (Toney) and Marcus was fantastic and a good finish.
“But we need more than two strikers and more than 11 players, especially this season.
“I’m really pleased he (Marcus) came on and had a good performance.”