Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill has managed to make some positive steps forward since taking over at the Bet365 Stadium, but the Northern Irishman must surely now be focusing on solving the Potters’ problems up front.
One of the main issues for the Potters under Nathan Jones during the first few months of the campaign, was their inability to convert chances in the final third, with Stoke managing to score just 13 goals in their opening 14 Championship matches before the club decided to part company with him.
O’Neill has shown some signs of addressing the Potters’ lack of firepower up front, with Stoke having scored 11 goals in the first seven league games of the 50-year-old’s time in charge of the club, but only three of those goals have come from strikers with one each from Sam Vokes, Lee Gregory and Mame Biram Diouf.
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That demonstrates the problem that O’Neill is faced with up front and he will be needing to find a solution to that over the next few months, starting with who he is going to entrust with being his first choice up front, after electing to give chances to both Gregory and Vokes to lead the line so far.
Vokes has been brought back into the first team picture over the last few weeks by O’Neill, after the Welshman had found himself down the pecking order under Jones, and the experienced striker has started the last four Championship matches, scoring his first goal of the season in the Potters’ 2-1 defeat ta Hull City.
However, against Reading last time out Vokes failed to offer enough of a threat for the Potters in and around the penalty area, although the 30-year-old was also largely starved for service, as Stoke failed to record a single shot on target costing them the chance of picking up a win which would have moved them out of the bottom three.
O’Neill decided to bring Vokes off the field on 63 minutes, with Scott Hogan coming on as his replacement, and the substitution was met with cheers from sections of the home support, highlighting that some fans were not satisfied with the Welshman’s performance.
That will leave O’Neill with a tough decision over who to start up front over the next few weeks, and it is a decision he must get right, with the Potters needing to find someone who can be relied on to score the goals needed to help them secure their Championship safety.