Nathan Jones insisted Stoke’s impressive 1-0 Carabao Cup victory at Wigan was belated reward for their decent start to the campaign.
Despite losing both Championship matches, to QPR and Charlton, Jones has not been displeased with the way his side have been playing.
And on another night they could and should have won by a far more emphatic scoreline against a Wigan side that made 10 changes for this first round match and never got going.
The Stoke manager, whose team were drawn at Leeds in the next round, said: “We were pleased with the performance but sometimes you don’t get the result as well.
“Last Saturday, we were also pretty emphatic, we went after Charlton and we ended up losing 3-1.
“It’s hard to fathom at times, but we needed the win tonight and we got it.
“There was a little bit of pressure building up from the players, and so on, and as a manager you expect that.
“There’s also been a bit of unfair criticism, but we’ve responded well.
“We moved the ball very well, we created a few chances and we should have won far more comfortably than we did.
“We made eight changes from Saturday, but we’ve got a strong squad here. And we need a strong squad, because we’ve got eight games in a month – which is bonkers, absolutely crazy.
“There’s no other league in the world that makes you play eight games in a month. It’s ludicrous, stupidity actually. But that’s the way it is, and you have to use your squad.
Nathan Collins, handed the captain’s armband despite having only two starts to his name headed the only goal after 10 minutes.
And, on the 18-year-old Irishman, Jones continued: “It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a while to be honest. The kid’s captain material, very level-headed, very professional.
“The way he thinks and acts is way above his age, and it was a calculated decision that thankfully proved right.”
Wigan boss Paul Cook had made no secret in the lead-up where the competition lay in his priorities this term.
He said: “We had to get debuts into a few lads. Some have been injured, some have signed late, and it was so important we got as many of them out on the pitch.
“It was important for our supporters to see them and get relationships with them, and important for them to have a run-out at the DW Stadium.
“It was a very good Stoke side they faced tonight, very physically strong, and well marshalled at the back.
“But the lads never gave up, they kept working away, and I think some of them will be very pleased with their efforts.
“Without a shadow of doubt our main priority remains the league.
“The league is our bread and butter, the FA Cup we want to do better than last year, and the team will be picked around those two.”