O’Neill hails Stoke character after dramatic win
New boss Michael O’Neill saluted his battling side as Stoke came from behind to beat Wigan 2-1 at home thanks to Mame Diouf’s stoppage-time winner.
Second-half goals from Danny Batth and Mame Diouf cancelled out Sam Morsy’s first-half opener as the improving Potters made it successive wins since O’Neill took charge.
O’Neill said: “Winning games like that get you of trouble, we really showed great character.
“It’s been a great start. It was a difficult game, which we anticipated. But we probably made life more than difficult than we would have liked.
“But I’m delighted with the six points from the two games so far. At times the game wasn’t pretty, but we dug in and showed our character.
“It’s always great to win so late in the game, it gives our supporters that extra wee lift and send them home happy.”
Skipper Morsy’s 39th-minute strike, his first league goal for two years, put the visitors on course for what would have been only their second win in 30 away league matches.
But defender Batth’s 55th-minute equaliser, also his first goal for two years, and substitute Diouf’s dramatic winner turned the game on its head.
O’Neill, who also masterminded a welcome first home win for a month, added: “We started the game so well and should have been ahead.
“But I told them not to let me down at half time – and they didn’t. There were a lot of positives from the second-half performance, but we’re far from the finished article.
“There were times in the game where Wigan were better than us, but you’re going to need battling qualities in the game to get a result in the Championship.
“The important thing is the players play with confidence. I think every squad benefits from being freshened up, but we’ll have to let players go before we do that.
“But we’ve only had three days training with the team, so we’ve not had a proper chance to look at all the players.”
Frustrated Latics manager Paul Cook was understandably deflated, especially after his team had looked well-placed to take a point on their travels.
But Diouf’s first goal since April 2018 sunk the Latics, who have now lost four of their last five league matches.
Cook said: “It’s a cruel game. Football is like that sometimes, but it’s cruel. We’re on the floor at the minute.
“Do you sometimes get what you deserve? I don’t know?
“We’ve conceded a stoppage-time goal, I just feel sorry for the players and the supporters. It’s painful, it really is.
“The dressing room is not a good place at the moment as you can imagine, the players are all feeling really disappointed.
“Was a draw a fair result? Stoke had certain spells of pressure where they came on very strong, but we managed that and missed a couple of good chances ourselves.
“It’s a brutal industry we’re in. Our lads worked ever so hard today, but I can look at my players with immense pride. Is that good enough? That’s for others to decide.
“Our lads have given everything they’ve got. As a manager, when they do that, you don’t have too many qualms.
“I don’t know how I can help them sometimes, other than shut my eyes and prey.
“We’ve got to keeping working away, that’s the nature of football. We’ve got to pick ourselves up. We’ve got to make sure we bounce back.”