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Michael O’Neill identifies key Stoke City requirement ahead of Luton Town match

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Stoke City boss Michael O’Neill has said his side need to show the same character they did in their 1-0 victory against Blackpool tomorrow afternoon as they take on Luton Town at Kenilworth Road, speaking to Stoke-on-Trent Live ahead of this tie.

A second-half collapse against strugglers Cardiff City, going 3-0 up but being pegged back to 3-3 in a five-minute spell, set them up in the worst possible way for their clash against the Seasiders on Wednesday evening.

This implosion came after four consecutive competitive defeats, going out to Premier League outfit Brentford in the Carabao Cup despite their home advantage and losing their last three games.

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Their previous defeat against Millwall took them down to a disappointing ninth place after establishing themselves as promotion favourites early on in the season and only looked to be going one way as they faced a Blackpool side that had secured consecutive victories against Reading, Preston North End and previous promotion favourites Sheffield United ahead of that tie.

However, the Potters defended bravely and finally made their breakthrough at Bloomfield Road in the 79th minute through Steven Fletcher’s tap-in, lifting them to sixth spot and reinforcing the tight nature of the second tier.

One key ingredient that wasn’t present before played a key part in that victory – and that was their character. This is one attribute manager O’Neill wants to see from his side once again tomorrow afternoon in their quest to secure another win before the international break.

He said: “It was a different side to the team and they had to show it, there’s no doubt about that.

“I said to them that the worst thing is to have your character questioned. We will play better than that, there’s no doubt, although we did play some good football in the game.

“Ultimately we showed the side of our character which we need to see again on Saturday.”

The Verdict:

Football is just as much of a mental game as it is physical – and that’s why their midweek win against a strong Blackpool team was so important. Not only were they able to get out of a rut with this win in Lancashire, but they were also able to re-introduce themselves as promotion candidates with how strong Neil Critchley’s side are.

A win at Blackpool this season would count as a statement of intent from most teams with how dangerous the Seasiders are – and this victory is a reward to those that have trusted in the process despite this difficult time.

They may have gone through a sticky patch last month with consecutive losses – but their future looks a whole lot brighter both on the pitch and off it after managing to offload some of their former high earners and recruit the calibre of players needed to stay in the top half of the table.

Throughout their entire team, from Premier League-linked Harry Souttar and promotion-winning centre-back Ben Wilmot right through to the promising Tyrese Campbell up front, they have all the ingredients they need to have a much better season than their last three.

From mediocrity, the Potters are now looking strong, but their mental state will be crucial in determining whether they can sustain their push for promotion. It’s time for them to prove their doubters wrong.


A 21-year-old Reading FC fan and writer who graduated from the University for the Creative Arts in the summer with a degree in Journalism and Media Production. Other topics written about include politics, mental health and education.

ScoopDragon Football News Network

Article title: Michael O’Neill identifies key Stoke City requirement ahead of Luton Town match

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