Stoke, Feb 5: James McClean enhanced his burgeoning reputation by scoring a classy second-half winner in Sunderland's 1-0 victory over 10-man Stoke on Saturday, maintaining the team's strong run under new manager Martin O'Neill.
The Irish winger dribbled his way past two challenges and into Stoke's area in the 60th minute before slotting a neat finish into the corner to seal victory in a match played in falling snow at Britannia Stadium.
The win was Sunderland's seventh in 10 league matches since O'Neill took over at the start of December and consolidated the team's position in eighth place in the standings.
The visitors had a man extra for the whole of the second half after German defender Robert Huth was given a straight red card just before halftime for a sliding challenge on David Meyler.
Stoke manager Tony Pulis felt the dismissal was harsh.
"Robert skids in but doesn't touch the player. The player rolls around and stays down but Robert hasn't touched him. The player tries to get him sent off," Pulis said.
"It's a disease that's creeping into the game."
O'Neill replaced Steve Bruce in charge when Sunderland was hovering just above the relegation zone, but he has had a dramatic effect on the team's fortunes, with his only losses in two months coming at Chelsea and Tottenham.
The Northern Irishman was also bold in handing McClean a debut in his first match as manager — the 2-1 home win over Blackburn — and the 20-year-old summer signing from Derry City has repaid the favor by producing some superb displays down the left wing.
This was his third goal in seven games.
"James McClean is having a great time," O'Neill said. "He is performing brilliantly for us. I couldn't ask for any more."
Stoke, which started the game well, dominated the final stages but Rory Delap and Jon Walters shot off target, Peter Crouch had a header saved by Simon Mignolet, and Ricardo Fuller was also denied by the Belgian goalkeeper.