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James McClean goal sees Stoke close in on Championship play-off spots

The Ireland international proved the matchwinner for Michael O’Neill’s side.

Stoke City's James McClean (right) shakes hands with Rotherham United goalkeeper Jamal Blackman.
Stoke City's James McClean (right) shakes hands with Rotherham United goalkeeper Jamal Blackman.
Image: PA

IRELAND INTERNATIONAL James McClean hit the only goal of the game as Stoke returned to winning ways against Rotherham.

McClean lobbed Jamal Blackman from the edge of the box after United failed to deal with Angus Gunn’s goal-kick on 27 minutes.

It ended a decent spell of pressure for the hosts which saw Tyrese Campbell and McClean both have chances.

Michael Miller was inches away from an equaliser after he shot on to the roof of the net five minutes later.

But Stoke never looked like surrendering their lead during a lacklustre second-half which saw both sides struggle to create any clear chances.

The Millers started brightest with Michael Ihiekwe having a goal chalked off for offside following a well-worked free-kick routine on eight minutes.

Campbell miscued a volley well wide on 10 minutes, before McClean failed to find the target after Campbell teed him up a minute later.

Campbell then chipped a cross-shot over the bar after seemingly getting caught in two minds on 16 minutes as the pressure continued to build.

Blackman turned behind McClean’s mis-hit cross on 19 minutes before Rotherham had a chance of their own, only for Freddie Ladapo to miss his footing at the crucial time and shoot wide after muscling his way into the box on 26 minutes.

The visitors went behind seconds later after Gunn’s resulting goal-kick sailed through to McClean and his lob fired the Potters in front.

Ihiekwe blocked a Nick Powell effort a minute later after he had initially lost his man.

Miller shot inches over for Rotherham from a tight angle on 32 minutes before Ladapo was unable to get a telling touch after Miller whipped a dangerous cross along the face of goal three minutes before the break.

Gunn was out of his box alertly to beat Ladapo to a through-ball and clear to safety at the start of the second half.

Campbell was crowded out from shooting after a jinking run into the box and Rotherham had a chance to make them pay but Florian Jozefzoon dragged an effort well wide after finding space on 69 minutes.

Michael Smith went into the book on 72 minutes after he hacked down Campbell as he burst through midfield.

Danny Batth’s header was comfortably saved from the resulting free-kick as Stoke continued to look flat.

Dan Barlaser smashed a 30-yard free-kick high over the bar with 10 minutes to go.

Angus MacDonald nearly scored a spectacular own goal to extend Stoke’s advantage after his attempted backpass from 35 yards lobbed over Blackman and went just wide in stoppage time.

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Elsewhere, Swansea moved into second place in the Championship with a 2-0 win against Blackburn, while fellow promotion chasers Bournemouth had to settle for a draw against Derby.

With leaders Reading losing at Coventry on Friday, Swansea moved within four points of the surprise pace-setters.

Goals in each half from Ben Cabango and Andre Ayew saw the south Wales club climb above Bournemouth.

An 81st-minute Rodrigo Riquelme equaliser earned the Cherries a 1-1 draw after Graeme Shinnie put Derby ahead in the first half.

Riquelme’s leveller preserved the English Football League’s last remaining unbeaten run.

Teemu Pukki netted a first-half double to lead Norwich to a deserved 3-1 victory over Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

There were only six minutes on the clock when Pukki struck for the first time, before a deflected effort doubled his tally eight minutes later.

Jack Hunt pulled a goal back for Bristol City within a minute, but Emi Buendia slotted past Dan Bentley in first-half stoppage time to re-establish the advantage.

Middlesbrough moved into the play-off positions after Marvin Johnson’s 81st-minute strike secured a 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest.

Wycombe finally secured their first win of the season as they overcame the absence of manager Gareth Ainsworth to beat Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 thanks to David Wheeler’s goal in first-half stoppage-time.

Ainsworth was watching the game from a hospital after undergoing back surgery on Friday.

Millwall, whose entire first-team coaching staff are self-isolating following positive tests for manager Gary Rowett and two other staff members, lost 3-0 to Huddersfield.

Barnsley beat Watford 1-0 at Oakwell thanks to Alex Mowatt’s stunning early effort, while Brentford were 3-0 winners at Luton.

Birmingham beat Preston 2-1 at Deepdale and QPR defeated Cardiff 3-2.

Additional reporting by AFP

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