Delighted Stoke boss Michael O’Neill saluted two-goal hero Joe Allen for inspiring a fine 3-0 victory over Luton.
Wales international midfielder Allen netted either side of half-time and winger James McClean was also on the scoresheet as the Potters ended a run of three straight defeats.
“Joe has the ability to lift the players around him – and he showed that,” said O’Neill. “
“He set the press for us. His two goals are great, Joe was very important for us.”
Victory was also the first time Stoke had scored three goals at home since December 2017 and the first time Allen had scored two goals in a league game in just over three years.
“I’m very pleased with the result and attitude, as well as lots of aspects for the performance,” said O’Neill.
“But we’ll not get carried away because there were aspects of the performance that can still be better.
“We got the goal at a good time, but overall it was a good night for us.
“We’re learning all the time about the players. Not only in terms of what they bring tactically, but also about their character.
“I said to the players before the game let’s not be judged on the game on lack of character. We should some really good quality.”
Stoke could have won by more as they claimed their first home league win against Luton since August 2005.
But the only disappointment for Northern Irishman O’Neill was that skipper Ryan Shawcross hobbled after only 15 minutes with a groin injury.
It was former England international Shawcross’ first game this season having recovered injury, so the defender’s new injury was understandably a bitter pill to swallow.
“It was a blow to lose Ryan when it happened, it knocked us a little bit,” admitted O’Neill.
“We had a little period of about 10 minutes where we struggled a bit, but we got the [opening] goal and should have added to it before Joe’s second.
“He’s tweaked his groin, it’s just a shame for him because I know how hard he’s worked to get back.
“It’s always a risk because of his age and coming back from a long injury, so it’s unfortunate for him.”
Angry Hatters manager Graeme Jones slammed his misfiring team for continuing to make costly mistakes.
“Ultimately the players need to accept responsibility,” said Jones.
“I’ll take responsibility for tactics, no problem. But what you can’t do is shoot yourselves in the foot. That’s exactly what we did tonight, we left ourselves with another mountain to climb.
“We can’t keep doing it, at the minute that’s our Achilles heel. It’s not frustrating as a manager, it’s just impossible to legislate for those mistakes.
“It’s happened too often and, as a result of those errors, you can’t play at this level of football and give goals to the opposition. That what we’re doing at the minute.
“I can’t do anything until 1st January, not a thing. I’ve got to get the best out of what I’ve got. That’s the truth. That’s what I’ve been doing all along.
“We’re fourth bottom after 21 games, so it’s job done at this moment in time. But obviously the job won’t be done if we keep making those errors.”
Jones’ side battled well for 35 minutes until McClean’s opener, but the boss called for his side to stamp out costly individual errors.
“For 35 minutes I thought we reasonably controlled the game,” added Jones.
“I can’t remember them having a shot on our goal. Ryan Tunnicliffe’s had a great chance right in the six-yard box but he doesn’t pull the trigger. That was a hope to score.
“You have to have that ruthless streak to make them count, but the last couple of games he hasn’t, which is something I’ve spoken to him about. Hopefully he improves.
“Then we have an individual error and suddenly we’re 1-0 down. We tried to attack and then get picked off and we’re 2-0 down.
“We changed a few things at half-time for a bit more solidity, but another individual error and we’re 3-0 down. Game finished.”
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