Saturday’s trip to Middlesbrough resulted in yet another Stoke City loss against a team above the Potters in the league.
The defeat further highlighted the stark differences in their results against the teams above and below them this season.
It was a Stoke performance that matched the result, against a Boro side who kept their play-off ambitions alive.
The Potters showed glimpses of quality during the 90 minutes, but they were ultimately beaten by the better side on the day.
In 14 games against the top eight this year, Stoke have picked up a mere eight points, winning just two of these games.
Their inability to cause higher-placed opposition many problems has resulted in their play-off chase derailing and confined the club to mid-table mediocrity.
Stoke’s inability to compete with the division’s best directly contrasts to their record against teams in the bottom half.
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The Potters remain unbeaten against the sides in the bottom 12 places, winning nine and drawing nine in the process. The objective for next season will be being as ruthless as they have been against the lower clubs of the Championship, regardless of who they are playing.
Although it has been a vast improvement on last season, in recent weeks they have struggled to maintain the play-off form they were demonstrating in December.
Four defeats in their last five games has seemingly halted their top-six ambitions, providing Michael O’Neill with some time to prepare his squad for next season. A campaign where a serious promotion charge is expected.
On Tuesday night, Stoke travel to high-flying Cardiff City and it will provide the Staffordshire club with an opportunity to rectify both their recent form and their record against teams in the top eight.
Another record Stoke will be looking to put right is their form on the road.
Stoke are without a win in their last ten away games. A run that stretches back to December 2, when they earned all three points in a scrappy victory at Wycombe Wanderers.
In what remains of the season, Stoke will be looking to set themselves up for a big push next season.
There is no doubt that they still possess one of the better squads in the division and they will need to be savvy in the transfer market if they are to mount the challenge that fans are beginning to expect.