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Stoke boss Michael O’Neill delighted with ‘hard-earned’ win over Blackburn

Queens Park Rangers v Stoke City – Sky Bet Championship – The Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium
(Image credit: Tim Goode)

Stoke boss Michael O’Neill hailed his side’s heroic defending following their 1-0 win over Blackburn.

Nick Powell’s seventh-minute header opened the scoring before Stoke defended valiantly to secure the win.

“It was a very hard-earned win against a good team,” he said. “Blackburn provide a stiff challenge.

“We started the game well and got a great goal, but we made life difficult at times by not taking care of the ball well enough. They handled the ball better and it was hard to get control of the game.

“We defended brilliantly as a team and did not give many chances away. Joe (Bursik) only had to make one big save.

“It was a hard-earned and a welcome win. The players showed spirit and character. We defended really well when we had to do.

“Players know what to do in the right area, they work hard and we have a good shape.

“There’s been a lot of disruption to the team and yet we have still been consistent with our defensive work. In terms of spirit and determination to hold on and to win the game, we couldn’t ask for more.

“Nick Powell is a great outlet for us in terms of winning the ball in the air and linking up for us. We are getting a lot out of Nick and play him in a variety of positions. He gives everything for the team.”

Rovers boss Tony Mowbray said his side had paid the price for going behind so early.

“You know what sort of team you will get from Stoke and Michael O’Neill, they are very well-organised,” he said.

“Michael managed Northern Ireland and generally they played bigger teams so he is very good at organising teams defensively.

“It was vital we didn’t lose a goal early, but it was a sloppy one with a lack of concentration. It was a frustrating day for us.

“We have a reputation for scoring a lot of goals early in the season, which perhaps is making it harder for us in that teams are playing more men behind the ball and deeper.

“We are on a journey and it’s not easy. If you look at our forward line, we have young players and it was a team of boys trying to score against a team of men.

“It was a hard ask for us, but there was plenty of good stuff.

“It would have been interesting if they had had to chase a goal and a day when we might have scored goals.

“I have to have a word with the owners about if we are going to bring reinforcements in during January and make a decision. We will do that over the next week or two and decide.”