The Potters opted to make a managerial change in December, parting company with Alex Neil after a defeat against then-basement side Sheffield Wednesday. He was replaced by Steven Schumacher and results initially improved, with the ex-Plymouth Argyle boss remaining unbeaten in his first five outings.
It proved to be a false dawn though, and the Staffordshire-based club are now dangerously close to dropping into the bottom three after a run of four successive defeats. They have conceded 13 in this period, culminating in the 3-1 reverse against Blackburn Rovers last weekend.
They host relegation rivals QPR tomorrow night in what could prove to be a season-defining clash, whilst Huddersfield Town – who sit sandwiched between the pair – take on Sunderland.
According to Sky Sports pundit David Prutton believes that a QPR victory, coupled with the Terriers earning themselves a point, will see Stoke fall into the relegation places. Writing in his column, the former Leeds United midfielder said:
“I was concerned for Stoke before the weekend, but now I am really worried. They rolled over completely against a Blackburn side who were in as poor a moment as they were.
“QPR are unbeaten in four now and Stoke are one of the sides they are hunting down. An early goal and the Potters will be in trouble. I’ll back an away win which will really tighten things up near the bottom.”
Huddersfield put up a real fight against Southampton on Saturday, whilst also dishing out a 4-0 hammering to Sheffield Wednesday the week prior. Prutton believes this will be enough to see them pick up another valuable point against the Black Cats:
“Huddersfield can take a lot from that performance against Southampton, even if they didn’t get anything from the game. No one gave them a prayer on the south coast, so to score three goals and give a side that good a real scare should bode well.
“Sunderland have had a decent couple of wins at home of late which has helped ease some of the pressure on Michael Beale. But they may have run into Huddersfield at the wrong time. There should be goals here, but I fancy a draw.”
Should these results come to fruition, Stoke would fall below both their opponents and Huddersfield on goal difference.
Stoke are in real trouble at the moment and defeat tomorrow night could be a disaster. A club their size will argue they shouldn’t be competing in League One, although these are views that have been shared by supporters of Sunderland, Leeds United and Derby County amongst others in recent years.
Schumacher won’t be reading too much into these predictions, although four successive defeats is alarming. However, that run must end somewhere and where better than against one of the clubs that are also fighting for survival.