Jonathan Woodgate insists Bournemouth will not be lacking in confidence when they take on Brentford in the play-off semi-finals despite seeing his team slip to a third straight Championship defeat.
Stoke were full value for their 2-0 win, given to them by goals from debutant Will Forrester and full-back Tommy Smith, despite Woodgate naming a strong side.
“We’ll be the underdogs, it’s all on them as the favourites but we’ll give it our best shot,” said Woodgate of the game with Brentford.
“It’s massive for the football club. It’s massive for the players. It’s massive for myself.
“When I came in the objective was to finish in the play-offs and we’ve done that by seven points. If you’re winning seven games out of 10 then you are doing OK.”
Having rested players last week and suffered defeat at Wycombe, Woodgate named a strong team for the Cherries’ final match of the regular season given the possibility of finishing fourth with a win.
Bournemouth’s best chance of the match came early as Championship player of the month Arnaut Danjuma pulled the ball back to Philip Billing, whose goal-bound shot was blocked by Danny Batth.
It was a key moment in helping Stoke towards their club record-equalling 21st clean sheet of the season.
“The frustration is that’s promotion form really, but in the other 25 games we’ve conceded too many obviously,” said manager Michael O’Neill.
“We lost some momentum in January and February so we have to learn from that.
“All round it was a very good afternoon for us. It was a great performance and a great result against a good side with a huge prize to play for.
“We sat three points off the playoffs after 23 games but we finish on a positive. We’ve got to keep looking for that bit of quality and keep adding to our squad hopefully.”
Stoke took the lead 10 minutes before half-time as 19-year-old defender Forrester hooked the ball in following Jordan Thompson’s corner.
Forrester was one of eight teenagers included in Stoke’s injury-hit squad, with 13 first-team players missing for O’Neill.
They came close to doubling their lead before half-time when Rabbi Matondo stood the ball up for Jacob Brown, whose header was brilliantly blocked by Cameron Carter-Vickers.
Seven minutes into the second half, John Obi Mikel found Sam Clucas and he slid a perfectly-weighted first-time pass into the path of Smith, who finished powerfully into the bottom left corner.
Woodgate responded by bringing on Rodrigo Riquelme and Shane Long but there was no way through Stoke’s impressive rearguard.
Dominic Solanke forced a brilliant save from Adam Davies as he connected with Lloyd Kelly’s low cross but there was precious little else for them going forward.
“We don’t want to lose any game that we play but that will have nothing to do with the play-offs,” insisted Woodgate.
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