Stoke City answer the question that Prince Harry can’t as Michael O’Neill brings back fun


Not being able to do it on a wet and windy night in Stoke might only be a hypothetical stick to poke anyone from Lionel Messi to Prince Harry.

But it has been a big real problem, over the last couple of years, if you’re not able to do it on a wet and windy night in Stoke and you are actually Stoke.

Well, it didn’t get much wetter that Saturday but Michael O’Neill is building a Stoke side which is prepared to roll up its sleeves and knows how to win.

There was skill, aggression and character as Stoke came from behind to lead, fought back immediately to lead again when they’d been pegged back, then could have blown Huddersfield away in a second half that was nervous and fun and absolutely soaking.

Tyrese Campbell was the headline stealer again with two goals while he forced the third and could have had another after being put through by a delicious Steven Fletcher back heel.

Sam Clucas got the fourth with a brilliant solo goal that saw him sidestep three defenders before pinging one into the top far corner from the edge of the box.

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It wasn’t straightforward, however, and Joe Bursik was tested while Danny Batth was in his element defending his box and trying to get his head on anything that moved.

And Stoke came through it with three points that leaves them nicely poised in the Championship table, seventh, a point behind the three teams above and three short of leaders Norwich, who are next up at the bet365.

Stoke had been hit by three major losses since a 3-0 win over Reading going into the international break, losing James McClean, Jordan Thompson and Angus Gunn – but Michael O’Neill was able to recall Clucas while Bursik cut his loan short at Doncaster to make his debut. At 20, it capped a memorable week which had already seen him collect his first England under-21s cap.

Jacob Brown was also recalled in a 4-2-1-3 which had him on the right of a front three, Campbell on the left and Nick Powell linking with Fletcher.

A nip and tuck and pretty even first quarter didn’t give any indication of what was to come.

But when Carel Eiting latched onto a cross from the left by Harry Toffolo to dispatch a shot past Bursik and put Huddersfield ahead, it rather fittingly opened the floodgates.

Stoke got onto the front foot via set pieces and forced a scramble that caused a bit of panic in the visiting defence before Campbell pulled things level.

Batth did well to get a knock down on Clucas’s free-kick from deep and Campbell piled in to smash into the net from 14 yards. He’s in that kind of form that as soon as you saw who it was it seemed he was never going to miss.

The second came two minutes later when Powell won the ball back in the final third and Fletcher fed it to Campbell to sprint in behind and calmly slot with his left foot under Joel Pereira. A double just like he had scored at Huddersfield back on New Year’s Day.

Periera did stop Stoke extending their lead after Fletcher’s lovely touch to send Campbell in one-on-one, tipping his shot around the post.

And straight up the other end almost immediately, Huddersfield equalised as Eiting skipped past Clucas and sent a pass past slipping Harry Souttar to find Isaac Mbenza running in from the left to finish.

Stoke might have been cursing letting a goal in so close to half-time but they had enough time for the perfect response.

Pressure from Fletcher as Huddersfield tried to play out from the back led to Campbell seizing on a pass from Pereira and cracking a shot in from the left that was deflected home via Richard Stearman.

“(That turnover) is something we work quite hard on in terms of how teams will come and play differently,” said O’Neill.

“I think you need good experience in the team and good structure as well. John Obi (Mikel) is a big part of that, helping organise people around himself.

“The most important thing is when you win it, is that the players you have can hurt the opposition and we have that in Campbell, Brown, Powell and Fletcher…

“Powell’s very good in that situation at winning the ball and playing it quickly. I thought he was terrific.”

Fletcher might have all-but wrapped things up when Powell did brilliantly down the right and pulled back for the striker unmarked on the edge of the area two minutes into the second half – but the striker pulled his shot narrowly wide.

Powell was claiming a penalty too soon afterwards after a push in his back from Demeaco Duhaney, but nothing doing from referee Jarred Gillet.

And Campbell turned provider with a fine pass to Fletcher, whose shot was blocked before Powell thumped the rebound wide.

Clucas did get that fourth, however, and it was worth the wait. Huddersfield couldn’t clear his corner properly and Souttar did enough to force it wide, where Clucas weaved inside and cracked in his first goal of the season.

“It was a good finish,” said O’Neill. “We’ve just been waiting for Sam to score, he’s always going to bring that to the table. It was a good goal and turned out to be important.”

It turned out to be important because Huddersfield scored their third within three minutes. Mbenza’s free-kick was nodded in by Naby Sarr and it was game on again.

Bursik had to be down smartly to save when Eiting wriggled through to shoot at the near post and Batth slid in to stop Danny Ward snatching the rebound.

Nathan Collins came on to add an extra body to the rearguard and Tommy Smith, Souttar and Batth all had to make vital interventions as Huddersfield were prepared to gamble but couldn’t find a way through.

Stoke were soaked but they were smiling – and they have it all to do again on Tuesday.





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