Stoke City 1-0 Rotherham United: McClean first half strike moves Potters up to eighth
James McClean celebrating the only goal of the game in Stoke City's victory over Rotherham united on the 31st October 2020 (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images).

Stoke City rose to eighth in the Championship after sealing a narrow 1-0 victory over Rotherham United at the Bet365 Stadium.

James McClean's 27th minute lobbed effort proved to be enough to earn the Potters an important three points which allows them to be level on points with the play-off positions as well as now being only three points adrift of the automatic promotion spots.

In truth, it was a game largely dominated by Stoke and despite the winning margin only being by a single goal, the hosts always looked in control and the defence did not have too many issues to have to deal with.

Story of the match

The hosts made the brighter start to the encounter but it was Rotherham that had the ball in the back of the net inside eight minutes when a smart free-kick found Florian Jezefsoon inside the area.

He then squared the ball to Freddie Ladapo who tapped the ball home from point-blank range but the goal was ruled out for offside.

Four minutes later the Potters formed their first opening of the game when on the counter-attack Steven Fletcher searched out Tyrese Campbell at the back post who nodded the ball into the path of McClean but his poked effort dribbled a couple of yards wide of the mark.

After that Michael O'Neil's men were really turning the screw and Campbell would have felt he should have done better just after the quarter of an hour mark.

This was when he was slipped down the right by Tommy Smith, but his shot from a tight angle sailed over the crossbar.

Inside 20 minutes Stoke then tested Chelsea loan goalkeeper Jamal Blackman for the first time when Jon Obi Mikel's cross from deep was met by Nick Powell at the back post, but his header was straight at the 27-year-old.

Six minutes later despite Stoke dominating the game, the Millers had a golden chance to break the deadlock when Ladapo did well to battle his way into the box but he slipped the moment that he released the shot and it was sliced horribly well off target.

This was an opportunity that they would rue not taking because the resulting goal kick found its way over the Rotherham defence and on to the boot of McClean who cooly lobbed the ball over Blackman and into the back of the net.

Two minutes later they should have doubled their lead when Powell found his way inside the box via a ricochet, but his low shot was well blocked by the feet of Blackman.

On the 32nd minute mark with Paul Warner's team trying to find a route back into the game, Mikael Miller did well to outmuscle Smith down the right-hand side but his shot flashed just over Angus Gunn's crossbar and onto the roof of the net.

After the break, Stoke maintained control of the clash but it was the visitors that had a decent chance to grab an equaliser just after the hour mark.

However, substitute Matt Crooks was unable to keep his header down after arriving first to a Dan Barlaser corner.

With 18 minutes remaining centre back Danny Batth had a chance to get his side a second but his header from a freekick landed straight into the arms of Blackman.

The visitors did put on some late pressure to the Stoke backline but they were not able to create signs of testing Gunn in goal as the home side managed to get the three points over the line.

O'Neil turned the club around since arrival

It is getting close to the one year anniversary since Michael O’Neil was appointed as Stoke manager and it is fair to say that he has had a successful spell at the club to date.

At the moment in which he arrived, the Potters were in serious trouble of relegation, but since being in charge of the club he has turned their fortunes around for the better.

This is because his prime aim last campaign was to earn survival in the Championship which was a task that was completed as they finished the season eight points adrift of the relegation zone.

Now nine games into the new season, and even at this early stage, O’Neil’s side are battling to find a way into the play-off positions as they sit on the same amount of points as sixth-placed Watford.

This is an incredible feat considering where they were at this point last season as after playing nine games in the 2019/20 season they had only managed to pick up two points- a year on they are 13 points better off.

The credit to this has to go down to the former Northern Ireland manager who actually has not splashed the cash as in the summer he only spent the best part of two million.

However, he did bring in players who know what is required at this level such as Steven Fletcher and Jon Obi Mikel.

Then adding that with the mix of young players they have coming through such as Harry Souttar and Tyrese Campbell, the Potters now appear to have the depth in the squad to compete and climb progressively higher up the table.

Stand Out Player-Nick Powell

The 26- year old sat in the pocket behind striker Campbell and Fletcher and consequently on many occasions linked up well with them when the hosts were surging forward.

His quick feet and interchanges meant that on countless occasions the Millers defence had to drop deeper to watch the runs in behind particularly from Campbell, which were caused by the clever play from the former Manchester United man.

The midfielder is in his second season at the club, but last campaign he was not a consistent feature of the Stoke squad due to interruptions through injury shown by him only making 29 Championship appearances and out of these, he only started 22 times.

Although this season he looks settled in the role that O’Neil has got him playing in and providing he suffers no long term injuries, he is someone that Stoke fans will be delighted to see be starting in the squad week in and week out.