‘It's a very important point’: Michael O'Neill on Reading draw
Stoke manager Michael O'Neill (Photo by MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill believes his side deserved to take a point following their 1-1 draw with Reading on Saturday.

Nick Powell’s injury-time header salvaged a point for the Potters at the Madjeski Stadium after Lucas Joao had put Reading in front early on.

Second-half improvement

Despite a poor showing in the first half in Berkshire, the Potters boss was pleased with his side’s reaction after the break.

Speaking to StokeCity+, O'Neill said:

“It was disappointing to lose the goal when we did, we looked a little bit weak physically at times in the first half, missed a few tackles and that subsequently cost us.

“Our decision making in the final third and on the ball could have been better, but that’s natural as this is the first competitive game we’ve had for over three months.

“But I thought second half we were more dominant and we warranted the point that we got.”

The Stoke boss knows how important the equalising goal could be for his sides ambition to stay up:

“I think when you’re behind in the game and you’re pushing as we were, it’s brilliant to get a goal at that stage of the game.

“It’s a very important point and over the 90 minutes I thought we deserved to take something.”

Positive reinforcements

A key factor in that improved second-half performance was in the introduction of substitutes James McClean and Sam Vokes.

Saturday’s appearance was McClean’s first in a Stoke shirt since suffering a knee ligament injury against Preston North End in February and O’Neill was quick to praise the 31-year-old’s impact on the game.

He added: “James has trained very hard but obviously he’s been injured since Preston and we went with the front three that started against Hull.

“But we knew that we would have the ability to bring James into the game and straight away he gave us some energy.

“At times we had to go a little more direct, Sam Vokes is a great outlet for that and we played off that.”

Injury concern

One concern following the result, however, was the condition of Ryan Shawcross after the Stoke captain was forced off at half-time due to injury.

“It’s too early but it looks like he’s just tweaked his groin,” said O’Neill.

“The signs are that it isn’t going to be anything long-term, he wanted to try and continue and we kept him on for that two minutes because we wanted to get to half-time without making a sub.

“But it’s a blow, I feel for Ryan because it’s been so stop-start for him (this season), he does everything and he’s a fantastic professional but at this minute in time, his body is just letting him down a bit.

“That’s something that we will work with him on and try and get right because he’s such an important player.”

Stoke face Middlesbrough at the bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

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