Stoke manager Michael O’Neill enjoyed having “a bit of an atmosphere” again after his side ran out 1-0 winners against Wycombe in front of 1,000 supporters at Adams Park.
Wycombe fans were watching their team in the Championship for the first time, but they ultimately saw them come away with nothing as Nick Powell’s header settled what was a tight contest.
Tier three coronavirus restrictions mean supporters can not yet return to Stoke’s bet365 Stadium, but playing in front of a crowd away from home still made a welcome change for O’Neill after being behind closed doors since the sport resumed in June.
“It was positive, really good,” the former Northern Ireland boss said.
“We’ve been playing now for so long in empty stadiums and, at times, it’s a little bit soulless, but tonight, even though there was only 1,000 people in the ground, we had a bit of an atmosphere.
“They were contesting the decisions, obviously, the referee was giving for and against them and, overall, I feel it was a positive that they were back.
“There’s been a lot talked about teams that will be permitted fans and teams that won’t be permitted fans.
“I don’t really have any strong opinion on that – we’re not permitted fans at Stoke, for example – but it was good to see fans here tonight.”
Wycombe’s David Wheeler hit a post after only four minutes, while Danny Batth had a header cleared off the line in what was a lively opening.
But the match was ultimately settled in the 72nd minute when Powell rose at the back post to head in James McClean’s cross.
“It was a good finish,” O’Neill added. “He had a good chance before that. Whatever we’ve asked of him he’s done his job for the team and, overall, his numbers are good this season.”
Wycombe boss Gareth Ainsworth said: “We were just done by one touch of class, there was nothing in it.
“I think our fans have seen that we can compete at this level – I’ve been saying it on camera and our fans have been saying ‘well, we want to see it.’
“They’ve seen it tonight and our fans can compete at this level as well because they were awesome tonight.
“I’m really proud of the players, but it was just that one moment of quality.
“We’ve had a couple of shots, we hit the post in the first few minutes and there’s some serious decisions the referee has had to make tonight.
“There was a potential red card on Fred (Onyedinma), there was a handball at the end that could have been a penalty, while Jason McCarthy has been dumped WWF-style and has had to come off injured.”