Michael O’Neill is dreaming of FA Cup glory after Stoke progressed to the fifth round with a 2-0 win versus Wigan.
The 2011 runners-up opened the scoring inside 14 minutes when debutant Josh Maja – a midweek loan signing from Bordeaux – converted from close range after a slip by Latics defender Jason Kerr.
Backed by over 4,000 travelling fans, the visitors gradually grew into the fixture and threatened to find a leveller through Max Power as they looked to preserve their 20-match unbeaten run.
However, substitute Jacob Brown dented their hopes of a cup upset when he doubled the Potters’ advantage less than two minutes after entering the fray.
Gwion Edwards was shown a second yellow late on for Wigan – winners of the competition in 2013 – as Stoke progressed to the fifth round for the first time since 2015.
O’Neill said: “I want to stay in the competition as long as we can. I’m not really concerned about our schedule. I don’t know how many rounds we are away from the final, but we’d have to play 22 games in the rest of the season and we’re capable of doing that. The draw’s been kind to us with two home draws and hopefully it’ll be kind again.
“I wasn’t overly pleased with the first half, I thought we laboured a bit. We showed good moments but we wasted opportunities and gave the ball away cheaply. Second half, we were a lot better and should have added to the two goals we had.
“Josh Maja took the goal insanely well. He’s not played a lot of football, so he’ll benefit from that 70 minutes that he had. That’s what he needs and for him to show what he did today was a real positive.”
Wigan boss Leam Richardson said: “It was won and lost in both boxes. You can see the calibre of players that Stoke have got; they’ve given everything today and put every forward-thinking player on the pitch. When it was 11 v 11, I thought we were competitive.
“We work tirelessly hard on the training pitch and you’re trying to have a structure and a philosophy within your team. You want to see the lads go on the pitch and replicate exactly what we’ve been working on and what we stand for, no matter what ground we go to.
“Today was no different, we’re against a really top side and a tough place to come, and I thought we represented ourselves really well.
“The fans were excellent again and they’ve been a large part of the run that we’ve been on. When a run finishes, you’ve got to start another one and it’s important that we start another from Tuesday and keep our league run going.”
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