Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill has suggested that he decided to take off Tyrese Campbell and Steven Fletcher against Brentford as a precaution, while he also revealed Alfie Doughty came off with a groin issue.
The Potters were unable to make it into the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup with them beaten 2-1 by a Brentford side that have performed well in the Premier League so far this season.
The first half was where the game got away from Stoke, with Brentford taking advantage of the Potters not being able to deliver as strong a performance as they needed to. That enabled them to go in at half time with a two-goal advantage.
Stoke improved after the re-start and they threatened to take the game to penalties. That came after Romaine Sawyers had got them back into the match with half an hour still left to play.
Managers are permitted to make five substitutes in the League Cup this season and O’Neill decided to bring off all three of Campbell, Fletcher and Doughty as part of the subs that he made.
That came with Campbell only having returned to action recently from a lengthy injury absence and Fletcher having also struggled with his fitness at times this term.
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Speaking to the Stoke Sentinel after the defeat against Brentford, O’Neill revealed that Campbell and Fletcher were both taken off as planned to protect them for the weekend.
He said: “Unfortunately, we knew both would probably only be able to play 60 minutes so it wasn’t ideal to bring them off at that point in time, but medically, obviously, we had the players interests at heart and to have one eye on Saturday as well.
“So, yeah, pleased with the contribution of both players.”
While on Doughty he added: “We started in a 343 system with Alfie off the left because we believe he’s probably more suited to that than playing as a wingback, but we just needed an extra midfield player in the first half and Alfie went out to wing-back.
“And he’s a young player, still learning that position a bit.
“He had a little bit of a tight groin as well, I think, so, yeah, we just felt it was the right thing to do to make the change at that point in time.”
This is positive news for the Potters because it seems that Campbell and Fletcher were able to get through the hour of football that they played against Brentford without suffering any further injury setbacks.
That means that the pair will both be much sharper in terms of their match fitness now. That will mean that the Potters can now look to hand them more minutes in the Championship over the next few games ahead of the international break.
It seems that Doughty was taken off as a precaution after suffering tightness in his groin. So, hopefully for the Potters that is an injury that will be able to settle down quickly and he will be able to remain a part of their squad this weekend.
O’Neill handled the situation with all three of his players well and he was right not to take any risks with them in keeping them out on the field too long against Brentford. In that sense, the ability to make five subs in the League Cup was really beneficial for the Potters.