West Brom head coach Slaven Bilic admits his team are in a mini crisis – despite still heading the Sky Bet Championship table after six games without a win.
Tyrese Campbell’s ninth-minute strike meant West Brom have taken just four points from the last 18 available, and they failed to force a serious save from goalkeeper Jack Butland.
The goal came when Nick Powell sent Tom Ince racing away and Ahmed Hegazi’s clearance fortuitously rebounded off the winger and into his path to square to Campbell, who steered the ball from 10 yards out, despite goalkeeper Sam Johnstone getting a good hand to the ball.
“It’s the same group of players who even with six games without a win, OK, it’s a mini crisis, but we are still on top of the table,” said Bilic.
“This group of players, together with staff and the fans, have done it.
“So there’s no magic formula – commit yourself more, work hard, dig in and get it back.
“It’s a blow for us, of course, but we can’t make excuses or go into a corner and say this and that.”
Bilic, who lost on-loan West Ham winger Grady Diangana to a hamstring injury after two minutes on his first start after a similar problem, was critical of Albion’s quality going forward as they laboured to create chances.
“The guys gave everything in terms of effort – they tried, but I have to admit the quality was not there,” he said.
“We can talk about the blow with Grady in the second minute and the goal that was achieved from the way we lost the ball.
“But we had plenty of time to react, yet in the first half we were very nervy and then there wasn’t enough bravery or confidence to try to hurt them with passes.
“In the second half, we improved but the quality wasn’t there. When you have this amount of possession – I think we have the highest amount of crosses and 16 shots but only two on target – that shows you a lack of quality in the final third.”
Stoke manager Michael O’Neill was ecstatic after his side’s second successive away win lifted them four points clear of the relegation zone.
“I’m delighted – it’s a massive three points,” said O’Neill. “This is a difficult place to come with West Brom being top of the table but it was a good performance.
“The back four and Jack Butland were fantastic, but equally we limited West Brom to not many chances.
“That’s down to the work and shape of the team and how we played.
“You’re going to have to expect the ball coming into your box, especially with people like Chris Brunt who have great delivery.
“What we showed was the ability and that work rate to win a game when we’re ahead.”