Michael O’Neill: Stoke players need to find their belief

Frustrated Stoke boss Michael O’Neill says his side must learn to deal with the pressure of a relegation battle following their 2-1 defeat at home to Blackburn.

The struggling Potters looked like they would claim a battling point after first-half goalscorer Bradley Dack bundled the ball into his own net following a corner with nine minutes left.

But Sam Gallagher rounded off a superb counter-attack to win it for Blackburn with six minutes to go.

City boss O’Neill said: “It was not a good first half for us, we were a yard short and short on quality as well.

“We clawed our way back into it with more intensity and energy, but it was a poor second goal to concede.

“We did not defend the counter attack well and it cost us the game.

“We had a lack of belief as an individual and collective and we need to get back to that.

“We have to have the belief to go on the pitch and show we are capable of playing.

“We are in a fight and that is the reality of it. We are going to have to play under this pressure for the rest of the season and we need to get used to it.

“The players have to believe in themselves. We can be great in training on a Monday to Friday, but it is 3-5pm on a Saturday that matters, it is as simple as that.

“We need players who are ready to perform physically and mentally and who can deal with the situation.”

Rovers boss Tony Mowbray felt his side deserved the victory.

“It was a hard-earned win, but we deserved it,” he said. “When they got the equaliser you could feel what the crowd could do.

“Stoke were lifted and you have some fears. We have found it hard on the road this year, but we don’t have negative thoughts away from home.

“We have lost to Leeds, Fulham and West Brom away and there is no disgrace in that.

“We had confidence today and we were moving the ball better.

“If you can retain the ball and make the crowd grumble it can increase the anxiety for Stoke and we did that well.

“I like the Stoke team and the manager, I’m sure he will resolve the issues here.

“We are on a good run at the moment and confidence between the two sides today may have been the difference.

“We are a team in transition from a direct team to a team trying to retain the ball better and counter-attack better.”