A Luke McCormick goal in the first half had given The Reds a glimmer of hope after a slow start in which Stoke scored twice, but McClean felt that red card for Choz Charlesworth on the hour mark proved to be a turning point.
He said: “We are disappointed as the boys put a real shift in and I think we deserved better than what we got. It is difficult to take on the night but we now need to push on in the league and do the best we can for the rest of the season.
“It was a slow start and once we had a foothold in the game we really pushed on, especially in the second half.
“The red card was a massive turning point and we were unlucky with the sending off and it is very difficult when you’re down to 10 men, especially against a good side against Stoke, but we did our best and that’s all we could have done.”
Attentions now turn back to the league campaign and McClean has ambitions to emulate last season’s success and secure the league title.
He said: “We are doing well in the league and just need to push on for the rest of the season. We need to learn from our mistakes and hopefully go on and win the league, then the play-offs and finish the season on a high.”