No concerns – Stoke City boss keen to address this worry among fans

Michael O’Neill has quickly stamped on any suggestion that his players aren’t quite up for the battle since their return from lockdown.

Saturday’s loss at Middlesbrough has raised questions in some quarters ahead of tomorrow’s trip for Stoke to in-form Wigan (7.45pm).

But O’Neill, while still critical of their performance at the weekend, was keen to back his players by stating: “Certainly since we came back, the training has been excellent, they’ve worked extremely hard and the mood has been good.

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“I think sometimes there’s an over-reaction to the result rather than the performance and on Saturday we had a great chance to get three points, but didn’t do that and the damage was pretty much self inflicted.

“I don’t have any concerns about where the team is in terms of spirit and togetherness, we just have to make sure we maintain our level of performance, but be more clinical in the final third.”

He also reminded fans that the team has been in relegation mode for the entire season and assured them that his players will remain battle hardened on his watch.

“Sometimes the questions are as if I’ve just woken up and we are in a relegation battle, but if you remember we were bottom of the table in November when I came in and so we have never played not in a relegation battle.

“Before lockdown, we were 17th in the table, our highest position all season, and we are now 18th.

“So the over-reaction to things, you can’t dwell on that and, we as coaches, we ignore that, we look at the performance of the team.

“We know that with seven games left the responsibility lies with ourselves to get the required number of points and we don’t really need to be looking at the teams around us, we need to be focusing on our own performance and making sure we take care of the job.”

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