Stoke City fell to their first home defeat since the end of November last night, after losing 2-0 to Preston North End at the bet365 Stadium.
The Potters have really turned a corner in 2020 and came into this clash embarking on a run of just one defeat in their previous six league outings.
Hoping to build on Saturday’s 3-1 home victory over Charlton Athletic, Michael O’Neill’s side would have been hoping to pick up another invaluable three points in their fight for survival.
But despite an encouraging performance from his side, particularly in the first-half, the Staffordshire outfit were left disappointed and without any points come the conclusion of the evening.
On the hour mark, Alan Browne capitalised from Stoke’s inability to clear a corner and tapped home, before Tom Barkhuizen doubled their lead 15 minutes later.
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It was somewhat of a shellshock for the Potters who produced a committed, battling performance on the night, but were left with nothing to show for their efforts.
Here, we take a look at three things we learnt about Stoke after their midweek defeat to North End…
They need to take their chances
Last night’s defeat would have been a massive blow for fans given that Stoke were excellent in the first-half and created no end of chances.
They got themselves into plenty of dangerous positions in the final third and had close efforts from Tyrese Campbell and Danny Batth saved by Declan Rudd, whilst restricting North End to very few chances.
It took Preston until nearly half-time to have their first real chance of the encounter, but they punished the Potters with two quickfire goals and a clinical edge in front of goal in the second-half.
Whilst Stoke are definitely starting to gel going forward, they need to convert their chances and be rewarded for their efforts, as a first-half goal on Wednesday night could have been beneficial for their confidence.
They need to defend set pieces better
Whilst Stoke have seemingly been turning a corner in recent weeks, they let their old errors creep back into their game last night.
Both of North End’s goals came from corners, with Browne and Barkhuizen both capitalising on Stoke’s inability to put a head on the ball and clear the danger, and they were very cheap goals to concede.
This is not what the likes of James Chester was brought in for – he was brought in to become a leader in defence and organise the back-line, and he will be disappointed with the goals his side conceded yesterday.
They need to start becoming more solid, aim for a clean sheet and build on that.
They aren’t out of danger just yet
Recent results have recently had Stoke fans believing that survival is a long way away, but last night’s defeat has seen them drop back down to a concerning 21st position in the Championship table.
Their relegation rivals, Charlton Athletic, picked up a massive 1-0 away win against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday which has seen the Addicks leapfrog the Potters.
Now, O’Neill’s side are back down to 21st and sit only four points clear of the relegation zone, with tough tests against Cardiff and Blackburn fast approaching.
That trip to Luton on the 29th of February could also prove to be a massive game for the future of Stoke City.
You cannot rest on your laurels at this level, and Stoke need to start to reopen that gap between themselves and the drop zone.