Sunday Mirror

McClean is clin­i­cal

- By JOHN WRAGG at the bet365 Sta­dium Sports · Stoke-on-Trent · Stoke City F.C. · Championship · Watford · Watford F.C. · Rotherham United F.C. · Rotherham · Paul Warne · Angus Gunn · Steven Fletcher · Jamal Blackman

JAMES McCLEAN’S strike won a poor game and put Stoke on the verge of the Cham­pi­onship play-off places.

But The Pot­ters are go­ing to have to be a lot bet­ter than this against Wat­ford and Read­ing in their next two games to try to es­tab­lish them­selves in the pro­mo­tion race.

Stoke boss Michael O’Neill said: “McClean wasn’t in great form at the start of the sea­son and then the tim­ing of the in­ter­na­tional break didn’t help him ei­ther.

“But since com­ing back into the team he has done well.

“It was a cool fin­ish and he’s hit­ting his stride now.”

O’Neill has taken The Pot­ters a long way since he ar­rived a year ago with Stoke at the bot­tom of the ta­ble.

He has fash­ioned a hard-to-beat team that was too good for Rother­ham to crack.

“I might come across as a bit of a wally, but I think we will be al­right,”said de­fi­ant Rother­ham boss Paul Warne. “To be dis­ap­pointed to lose at a place like Stoke shows how far we have come.

“It was a poor goal to give away, route one, a freak. I think we should be six or seven points bet­ter off than we are, so I do think we have enough to stay up, yes.”

There was noth­ing com­pli­cated about the way Stoke won it in the

27th minute with McClean’s sec­ond goal in three games.

Keeper An­gus Gunn hoofed the ball up­field, Steven Fletcher got a headed touch on it, and McClean (above) lobbed keeper Ja­mal Black­man.

STOKE CITY: Gunn 6; Sout­tar 7, Batth 7,Fox 6; Smith 6, Mikel 7, Thomp­son 6 (Cousins 5, 77) McClean 8; Camp­bell 6 (Brown 77), Fletcher 7, Pow­ell 6 (Oak­ley-Boothe 89).

Un­used Subs: Nna Noukey, Lind­say, Ince, Vokes. ROTHER­HAM UTD: Black­man 6; Hard­ing 6, Ihiekwe 7, A. Mac­Don­ald 7, Mat­tock 6; Joze­f­zoon 7 ,S,Mac­Don­ald 6 (Crooks 60, 5), Bar­laser 6, Lind­say 6 (Smith 60), Miller 7; Ladapo 7 (Hirst 70, 5). Un­used Subs: Jo­hans­son, Wood, Wiles, Sadlier.

MAN OF THE MATCH: James McClean. Grate­ful for the goal he got in bor­ing game.

REF­EREE: Dar­ren Bond 7.

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