Potters’ boss outlines “Vital” Stoke City change as striker hopes for injury boost…

Reaction from the bet365 Stadium following Stoke City’s goalless draw with Cardiff.

Stoke City are four unbeaten – but it’s not four wins in a row – after a goalless draw with Cardiff. It was a point that keeps the Potters in the top half with pretty much a third of the season gone so here are the talking points from the bet365 Stadium…

No four wins in a row but three clean sheets

The wait for three clean sheets on the spin had been a week longer than the wait for three back-to-back wins. Stoke just hadn’t been able to repeat that run from November 2021 – vs Blackpool, Luton and Peterborough – and it’s no surprise that they’ve virtually gone hand in hand. Getting it right at the back doesn’t half improve their chances in such tight matches.

Apart from the penalty against Leeds, genuine big chances have been kept at a premium. They haven’t been getting by on the seat of their pants, even if the occasional dodgy pass out from the back has made the heart beat a little faster.

There seems like a big difference in how they react to those moments as a unit, showing urgency but not panic. That’s a vital change.

Jack Bonham has taken responsibility, punched and claimed crosses and made saves, and it must make a difference to play behind a consistent back four. It’s a reason for encouragement and they know they have to keep it up.

Stoke didn’t take chances this time

Dwight Gayle had a couple of chances to probably be the match winner, getting into good positions but not able to apply the finishing touch.

“There was the Leris one too,” said Alex Neil. “Vidigal was actually coming onto the ball and Mehdi tried to turn and spin and had it himself when he probably should have left it.

“I thought we lacked a little bit of patience around the edge of the box in the first half as well. Sometimes we tried to clip things and force things when it wasn’t on and we just needed to be a bit more patient and work the ball.

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“They are elements we need to get better at and I think you can see as well when we bring the new lads on it sort of opens the pitch up a little bit. I think a point was a fair result.”

Ryan Mmaee expected back soon

A frustrating second game missed for Ryan Mmaee but Alex Neil said post-match it had been touch and go about whether he would be involved.

Stoke brought him in to be the difference at the other end and he has to hope he can put a run of games together after the international break to really get to grips with life in the Championship and develop partnerships with Andre Vidigal, Mehdi Leris and the rest.

It’s been a bit stop-start so far, but if he can turn glimpses of potential into something for Stoke to hang their hat on every week – and if they can combine that with clean sheets at the other end – then it may ultimately be a fruitful relationship. But the proof will be in the pudding.

Selection decisions for Alex Neil

There were immediate recalls for Wouter Burger and Vidigal – in place of Josh Laurent and Sead Haksabanovic – following the win at Middlesbrough.

Neil said: “We brought Wouter back in and Andre came back in, and the reason being that they didn’t get dropped at Middlesbrough but got rested. I think it was important to use the squad.

“Then we weren’t hesitant in the substitutes, trying to get them on the pitch. We were quite aggressive, I thought, but it was a tough game for us and we didn’t have as much impact in the second half as we wanted.”

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