Michael O’Neill says he was justified in making three changes ahead of Stoke’s 1-1 draw at Luton.
O’Neill recalled James Chester for Nathan Collins at centre half, brought in Jordan Cousins for Jordan Thompson in the defensive midfield role and preferred Sam Vokes to Tyrese Campbell in attack.
Vokes quickly backed up his manager’s decision by diverting home a Tommy Smith shot for 1-0 by the ninth minute, but Stoke’s defence of that early advantage was undermined when Chester conceded a 90th minute penalty converted by James Collins.
“It’s pretty evident,” said O’Neill of his changes, “because it’s a lot to ask Tyrese (Campbell) to play three games in a week at his age, I don’t think he’s physically ready to do that.
“Certainly second half against Blackburn he didn’t give us a lot, he looked very tired.
“I thought Sam (Vokes) would give us a physical presence, which he did, and I thought he played very, very well.
“James comes in and gives us experience. James, having not played for so long, it was difficult for him to come in and play a three-game week.
“And I thought Jordan Cousins would give us that freshness and physicality in the middle of the field.”
Asked if it was two points thrown away by his players, O’Neill was quick to defend them.
“That’s a bit harsh on the players. I thought first half we played really well and created more chances than the one goal we scored.
“Second half we expected them to come out and put pressure on us, which they did, and I thought we defended well.
“To lose the two points is disappointing, but I think it would be wrong of me to say we threw it away.”