John Obi Mikel assisted Lee Gregory’s first-half goal as Stoke secure their first win of the Championship season at 10-man Preston on Saturday.
The Potters were on the back foot throughout the first half before Tom Barkhuizen’s red card turned the tide of the game.
Gregory gave the visitors the lead before the break and, despite late pressure from the hosts, they were able to hold on.
Stoke manager Michael O’Neill made five changes to his side while Preston’s Alex Neil brought in Jordan Storey and Jayden Stockley.
The introduction of the latter into the line-up almost proved to be a masterstroke from the Lilywhites boss, with the striker going close twice in the opening 10 minutes.
The home side began on top and after Alan Browne’s free-kick was deflected over, Stockley volleyed wide when unmarked before a dangerous header was hooked away by the Stoke defence.
Referee Matt Donohue then waved away a penalty claim for Preston following a coming together between Browne and Jon Obi Mikel in the box and the man in the middle was back in the thick of the action in the game’s first big talking point after 22 minutes.
Barkhuizen went in heavy on defender Morgan Fox and Donohue judged the tackle to have been a dangerous one, quickly producing a straight red card.
Steven Fletcher had glanced a header wide prior to the sending off but Stoke had done little to trouble the Lilywhites’ backline in the first period.
That was until five minutes before the break when they took the lead with their first real chance of the game.
Tashan Oakley-Boothe found Mikel in the box and he slid an inviting ball across the Preston six-yard box for Gregory to tap home unmarked at the back post.
O’Neill’s side tried to kill Preston off early in the second half, with Gregory close to connecting with a cross from the right before James McClean drew a save from Declan Rudd.
Sam Clucas should have done better minutes later when he was denied by the feet of Rudd after a classy flick from Fletcher left the North End defence flat-footed, with Stoke looking the more likely to grab the next goal.
They should have grabbed a second 15 minutes from time as sloppy passing at the back saw the ball fall to Fletcher but he produced a rabona which clipped the top of the crossbar.
Preston began to put the pressure on late on, with a flurry of corners and balls into the box but a tame header from Stockley was all the 10-man Lilywhites could muster.
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