Stoke interim manager Dean Holden has left the club after they recorded a battling 1-0 win at Blackburn – clearing the way for Alex Neil’s seemingly imminent appointment.
Holden, previously assistant to the sacked Michael O’Neill, took charge for the game at Ewood Park but a club statement after the game confirmed his departure.
In front of the watching Neil, Stoke showed both sides of their character, producing a dominant first-half display that saw them lead through Lewis Baker’s stunning 25-yard strike – the least they deserved after an energetic display that brought clear chances for Liam Delap, Aden Flint, and Jacob Brown.
After the restart, they showed heart and desire to protect the precarious lead against an improved Blackburn and held out to record only their fourth win on the road in 2022 and their second
victory this season, giving Stoke a platform to build on under their next manager.
Holden believed the win showed how good Stoke can be.
He said: “There’s the basis of a really good team. They’ve not shown it enough, particularly this season. Just disappointed for him that he’s not been able to see it through because you can see today the quality we’ve got.
“First half, we knew that Blackburn have got a nice style of football, we knew we could catch them high up the pitch, which we did countless times. Probably should have come in at 2-0 really.
“We knew they’d throw everything at us second half. Jack (Bonham) had one save to make, in the first half, and it was a good save. Other than that, there were a load of blocks, but Jack didn’t have a lot to do.
“The new manager coming in is going to have a really good group of players and more importantly, a really good group of staff to push this club where it needs to get to.
“We showed what a good team we could be first half with the ball, and in the second half, we defended resolutely.”
A short club statement around four-and-a-half hours after the game announced Holden’s departure.
Joint chairman John Coates said: “The professionalism that Dean brought to his position with us has never been more evident (than) over the last 48 hours, culminating in him guiding us to victory at Blackburn this afternoon.
“We are grateful for his efforts over the past 16 months and wish him every success for the future.”
Rovers were consigned to their first home defeat of the season and a third straight reverse for the first time since February 2021.
Manager Jon Dahl Tomasson admitted the first half was not good enough.
He said: “We’re disappointed with the result. The performance, I think we should be getting more if you see the performance.
“It can be difficult when a club is changing manager and we didn’t play a good game in the first half. Our decision making and our intensity, we were a bit passive in that way. We made bad decisions on the ball and off the ball. Stoke got opportunities, but not a lot. The boys were disappointed with the first half.
“The second half was an excellent half. We created opportunities, shots were blocked, we got the fans with us, a lot of intensity and good football. The only thing lacking was a goal so we need to learn from that. We need to start better. I’ve told them that.
“We need to start in minute one. Even if you don’t know exactly which formation the opponents will use, the boys were prepared for three different formations so it shouldn’t be an issue.
“It was not good enough.”
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