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Michael O’Neill confident Stoke are moving in the right direction

Stoke City v Rotherham United – Sky Bet Championship – bet365 Stadium
(Image credit: Barrington Coombs)

Michael O’Neill believes Stoke are in a better place than this time last year following their 1-0 win over Rotherham.

James McClean scored the winner after Rotherham failed to deal with Angus Gunn’s goal-kick on 27 minutes.

Michael Miller came closest to finding an equaliser when he shot just over five minutes later.

“The club is more healthy now and we have to continue to push on,” O’Neill said. “We are still in transition but we are stronger as a squad than this time last year.

“We have a group of players who will fight for each other. I think we have the right type of player.

“They are working hard in the training pitch and we are in decent form going back to last November.

“We are more focused and have the players we need. We had good players missing today and there are a lot of things for us to be positive about.

“We have to keep working hard and we can’t let our standards drop.

“Sometimes there is an overreaction to defeat. We lost in midweek to a team that are second in the league and we are delighted to have responded with a win.

“We have an expectation to be a team that can be in the top half of the league and then progress into the top six.

“These are the types of games we have to dig in and win. If you lose you have to make it possible to win the next one and we did that.”

Rotherham boss Paul Warne admitted his side were not at their best.

“I don’t think we created enough today,” he said, “We came here to win but we just looked jaded from midweek.

“That is on me and I should have made more changes. I could have made changes but we played well in midweek so it is hard to make the changes.

“The goal was a bit of a freak goal and to lose on a long ball straight down the middle is a bitter part.

“If we are going to have a great season then we have to eradicate those errors.

“I’m not criticising the goalkeeper. I don’t think there was much he could do.

“We should have six or seven points more. We go into every game trying to win and I am looking up the table not down.

“We have been competitive and we are disappointed to lose at Stoke which shows how far we have come.

“We have a good group and I am happy with our start.

“Sometimes you don’t play at your best and we would have taken a point. We were competitive but just not at our best in the final third.

“We played Wednesday, Stoke played Tuesday and 24 hours rest can make a big difference.”