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Michael O’Neill unhappy by award of late penalty against Luton

Stoke boss Michael O’Neill described the decision to award a late penalty against his side in their 1-1 draw at fellow relegation rivals Luton as “soft”.

With 89 minutes gone and the Potters leading through Sam Vokes’ ninth-minute strike, Callum McManaman went down in the area under the challenge of James Chester.

Referee Andy Woolmer pointed to the spot and James Collins converted from 12 yards, with O’Neill saying: “It’s very disappointing to be in front and get to the 90th-plus minute and the penalty’s soft to say the least, let’s be honest.

“But there’s nothing we can do about, it’s two points dropped, because of the position we’re in.

“Equally, it’s important we weren’t beaten as well, but it doesn’t feel like that at this minute.

“I don’t think there was very much in it to give it at that moment in the game.

“There’s contact between James Chester and their player with their upper body, he gets a toe to the ball, but there’s a lot of bodies there.

“It’s an interesting one to give that late in the game to make that decision.

“I thought in the first half we were really, really good, very strong.

“We had chances, probably should have been more than one ahead, and we had control of the game.

“Second half, we didn’t play as well, but part of that is I have to give the opposition credit.

“They had nothing to lose at that point, came forward and offered more of a threat.

“Second half we looked a little bit tired, were wasteful in possession which meant we couldn’t get up the pitch as well as we’d have liked.

“We feel aggrieved a little bit but we just have to move on, it’s disappointing to drop the two points.”

The Potters had the better chances of a poor first half, as after Vokes put them in front after nine minutes, Tom Ince was denied by a fine Simon Sluga save.

Harry Cornick went closest for Luton, his header gathered by Jack Butland, while after the break, Cornick had a goal chalked off on 70 minutes for an offside call once George Moncur’s shot was parried by the Potters keeper.

However, Collins rescued a point at the death, and Luton chief Graeme Jones added: “You’ve got to be experienced, you’ve got to have experienced big moments in order to keep your call in those situations.

“The courage of the lad, I don’t think anybody at the football club doubts it and he was ice cool.

“I never give in, ever, not with these lads, and they’re a very, very experienced Championship side.

“You have a look at their group of players and their ages.

“There’s 11 men on the pitch for them who’ve got a lot of know-how, a lot of international experience, I can go through their team, so they should be able to control certain moments.

“We were treading in quicksand for large parts of the game, Tuesday night really took its toll on us physically.

“I didn’t see the spark we had then, but in those situations the key for us is to get something out of it.

“I’ve been speaking to the boys before Christmas about we need to accumulate points and that’s what we’ve done today.

“We’ve managed to nick a point and that might be enough at the end of the season.”