Stoke City legend Ryan Shawcross has identified the need for the Potters to be more clinical in front of goal as the potential key to success, writing in his column for Stoke-on-Trent Live ahead of their clash with West Bromwich Albion tonight.
After making a remarkable start to their 2021/22 Championship campaign, winning 18 points from ten games and currently sitting in fifth position as things stand after their 1-1 draw away at Preston North End in midweek, they will be desperate to take one step closer to the automatic promotions spots tonight and bolster their status as a top-six side.
They have the home advantage against Valerien Ismael’s outfit this evening, although they still face a daunting task with the Baggies at the top of the Championship table and scoring four against Cardiff City in midweek.
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With this, Stoke manager Michael O’Neill will be counting on the likes of Leo Ostigard, Ben Wilmot and Harry Souttar to stand up in the face of adversity and shut out Karlan Grant, Jordan Hugill and Callum Robinson who are all likely to start for the opposition again tonight.
Grady Diangana and Matt Phillips will be two dangerous options to come off the bench for the Baggies too, with Robert Snodgrass working his way back to full fitness and in contention for a spot in the matchday squad tonight.
However, former Potters centre-back Ryan Shawcross is more concerned about what’s happening at the other end of the pitch, writing in his column for Stoke-on-Trent Live: “The frustrating thing is that we’ve not been clinical. This was the second or third game when we could have been ahead by a greater margin – and this time, we drew.
“There are so many tight games in the Championship and we need to be ruthless at both ends.
“We can look at the results already and think we’ve let a couple of points slip through our fingers at Deepdale, a couple more against Barnsley, one or three against Derby.
“That will either be pivotal and we’ll be kicking ourselves in a congested table or we’ll be fine because we’ve kept improving.
“Let’s hope it’s the latter and we’ll probably know soon enough.”
Their draws against Birmingham City, Barnsley and Preston North End were winnable affairs, so you can definitely see where Ryan Shawcross is coming from with this verdict.
The latter game, which took place in midweek, was especially disappointing after dominating the first half and looking as though they were going to pull away from Frankie McAvoy’s side after Nick Powell’s sixth-minute opener.
However, it wasn’t meant to be. This sort of result can turn out to be detrimental come the end of the season in terms of points, especially with West Brom coming up next, but they have the opportunity to send a message to the rest of the division with a victory tonight.
Valerien Ismael’s side haven’t lost any of their ten second-tier games this season, so it will be an extremely tough task to overcome the Baggies, but their potency in front of goal is something they have probably tried to improve on in training between Tuesday night and this evening, so it will be interesting to see whether they can convert that into goals.
The likes of Mario Vrancic and Nick Powell will always chip in with goals, but the strikers also need to step up and establish themselves as the key goalscorers in the team.
Sam Surridge has only scored two league goals so far this season, something he will want to improve on, with Steven Fletcher in contention to return from his ankle injury for this evening’s match. With his experience, he could prove to be crucial in such an important tie.