Michael O’Neill was happy to take a fortunate win (Mike Egerton/PA)
02 April 2022

We’ll definitely take it – Michael O’Neill happy with tight win

02 April 2022

Michael O’Neill expressed his relief as Stoke left it late to beat Sheffield United 1-0.

The Potters broke the deadlock in the 77th minute through John Egan’s own goal to clinch a second successive league win for the first time since November.

In a first half low on quality, Jacob Brown spurned two opportunities from promising positions and Stoke’s wastefulness continued after the restart.

Josh Maja also squandered two glorious chances in quick succession, failing to convert almost identical Josh Tymon deliveries from point-blank range.

However, the home side found a winner late on in fortunate circumstances when a Tymon cutback ricocheted off John Egan’s hand beyond a wrong-footed Wes Foderingham.

The Stoke boss said: “We’ve come out of too many narrow games on the wrong side of a result. I felt it was always going to be a game decided by one goal.

“I thought we were the better team in the second half, and we deserved to win the game. There was very little in it, but it was a very good performance against a very good team.

“We knew we could get Josh (Tymon) out given their system and he put two or three really good deliveries into the box and in this situation, the deflection takes it past the keeper and it’s one that we’ll happily take. We haven’t had enough of that this season, so we’ll definitely take it.

“We went back to basics and the back four as a whole, we worked hard on not being too aggressive or leaving space in behind. I thought we limited the space, so I’m really pleased.”

The Blades had opportunities to stamp their authority on the fixture, but a lively Morgan Gibbs-White could not prod home early in the first period and gain his side the control.

The promotion hopefuls could only muster one shot on target as Oliver Norwood struck a tame effort straight at Stoke stopper Jack Bonham shortly after the hour mark, in what summed up a flat afternoon.

Substitute Ben Osborn nearly netted in stoppage time with a sweet volley, but the visitors were resigned to a fifth away game without victory as they slipped out of the play-off fray.

United boss Paul Heckingbottom said: “It was a disappointing result and the performance wasn’t what we were after either.

“If ever a game’s looking like a 0-0, it’s that one. Both teams didn’t have any efforts at goal, not enough from our point of view, so very disappointing.

“We showed a lack of quality in the final third, which didn’t allow us to create enough chances or get a foothold in the game. We weren’t good enough today, so we need to improve.

“There’s 46 games and they come relentlessly, so it’s a reminder that we have to be at our best. We didn’t do enough and got punished.

“I’ve got no problem getting back on track now. Our away form is a bit of a concern, but we’ve still been picking up the points.

“We know we can do it, but the dynamic of the team keeps changing where we’re losing players and partnerships, and we are a different team now from what we were three months ago, so that has had a bearing on our home and away form without a doubt.”

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