Michael O’Neill knows he is squeezing Nick Powell for all he’s got after the playmaker proved match winner against Blackburn.
Powell’s early header, his fifth goal of the season, was the vital moment for Stoke City on an afternoon when they were forced to defend well as a team.
It was Powell’s work off the ball that helped see the job out and his ability in the air that proved so important once again.
O’Neill said: “I always knew that was something he had. He’s a really good outlet for us in terms of winning balls in the air and linking with people as well. He had a good chance at QPR actually on Tuesday night, when he headed wide. He made sure with that one there.
“We’re getting so much out of Nick. We’ve played him in a variety of positions and he gives everything. Unfortunately we had to take him off with a knee knock today, He’s been a very important player for us this season.”
Stoke top the charts
Stoke have kept more clean sheets in 2020 than anyone else in England.
It’s 23 so far in league and cup, from just 46 games. They need two more to match the club’s best ever in a calendar year – 25 from 59 matches in 1994 – and they have three chances left to make it happen, including a Carabao Cup quarter-final against Spurs.
Blackburn might have scored ‘a lot’ – if Stoke hadn’t been so defensive
Tony Mowbray highlighted the importance of the first goal as his Blackburn Rovers side came unstuck at Stoke City.
Nick Powell sealed three points for Stoke with a sixth minute diving header, allowing the injury-plagued home side to soak up pressure for the majority of the match without giving away too many openings.
But Mowbray reckons his forward line might have helped themselves to a handful if only they could have got the first one and forced Stoke out of their shell.
Player ratings from the storm
Here’s our take on James Chester…
“An increasingly key man, read the game well and composed. Excellent.”
Do you agree with all the marks?
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