Stalemate ‘reasonable’ for O’Neill

In a match of few opportunities, Stewart Downing’s shot which

inadvertently deflected off Villa team-mate John Carew but hit the

side-netting with goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen wrong-footed and Stoke

defender Robert Huth’s late header over the top were probably the

best for both sides. A point each was really all they deserved,

which was more helpful in solidifying Stoke’s mid-table position

than it was for Villa’s top-four aspirations. “We would love to

have won the game but it was never going to be easy,” said O’Neill.

“Stoke are always very difficult, so maybe it was a reasonable

outcome. “There weren’t many chances in the game and the wind

didn’t help matters. “It was a tough afternoon. We defended very

stoutly indeed and the game didn’t have that many clear-cut

chances. “At the end of the day a draw was probably a fair result.”

Stoke have lost just once at home since the turn of the year – to

Arsenal – and have had only two defeats at the Britannia since

September 26. Potters boss Tony Pulis praised his side for their

work-rate after a third match in a week. “It was a very windy day

and I thought the teams were very honest and committed,” he said.

“When it blows you it is ever so difficult. You think it is windy

and cold up in that [main] stand but you get down by that pitch and

it is very blustery. “We’ve had a very busy period and a three-game

week and when you catch a top team in your third game, it is always

very difficult – especially when they haven’t played in midweek.

“However, I thought we got stronger as the game wore on and in the

last 30 minutes we were the stronger team and were the ones pushing

forward and had the better opportunities.” Pulis made a surprise

double substitution early in the second half, removing crowd

favourite Tuncay Sanli and Mamady Sidibe to send on a completely

new front two of Ricardo Fuller and Dave Kitson. Turkey

international Tuncay showed his frustration after being withdrawn

but Pulis said that did not bother him. “He’s a great lad but it

makes no difference to me what names they are or what they have or

haven’t got,” added the Potters boss. “It is all about the team for

me, which is more important than any individual. “I’ve never

changed my philosophy and that’s the way it will always be for me.”