Stoke City manager Michael O’Neill has questioned how much some of his players are “hurt” by the position they find themselves in the Championship and has demanded a response from his side when fellow strugglers Barnsley visit the Bet365 stadium on Saturday.
The Potters sit just a point outside the bottom three after their 3-0 drubbing against Wigan on Tuesday, but they could see themselves fall into the drop zone by the end of the week if both Huddersfield and Hull avoid defeat in their fixtures against Birmingham and Middlesbrough.
They fell behind on 40 minutes when Jack Butland failed to keep out Kieran Dowell’s cross-come-shot. The former England keeper was at fault again in the second half when he gifted Kal Naismith his first goal of the season. Naismith’s second followed just three minutes later, this time Butland had no chance as the 27-year-old cut in from the right and hammered a shot into the corner of the goal.
O’Neill’s side have yet to win since the Championship restart, drawing against Reading before losses against Middlesbrough and Wigan. The Northern Irishman has now appealed to his side for a response ahead of Saturday’s crucial encounter.
Speaking to StokeCity+, he said: “To be honest, with Saturday’s performance there was a lot of positives but there is nothing to take from this one at all.
“The results have been disappointing there’s no doubt about that. One point from three games leaves us in an extremely precarious position but we have to continue to work with the players.
“These are the players we have, they’ve been at the Club for a while now and for many of them I just don’t know how much it hurts to be honest.”
“We have to see a greater reaction, we didn’t see that on the pitch and they have to show that on Saturday. They owe that to the Club, to the owners and to the fans.”