Mark Hughes remains enthused by Saido Berahino's start to life at Stoke City, despite seeing the striker go 12 games without a goal in Saturday's 0-0 draw with West Ham.
Berahino was an estimated £12million arrival at Stoke from West Brom in January, having fallen far out of favour under former Potters boss Tony Pulis at The Hawthorns.
The former England Under-21 striker has started each of Stoke's last eight games, but he remains without a goal and saw two chances go to waste at the bet365 Stadium.
But Hughes was happy to preach patience with the 23-year-old, affording Berahino time to prove himself yet.
"Saido is a player who works off the shoulder, and the space in behind was at a premium, so it was difficult for him in fairness," Hughes said.
"But he's done fine. He's in good nick physically and dropped about five-and-a-half kilos.
"Next year will be when we need to judge Saido."
Opposite number Slaven Bilic also leapt to the defence of his own misfiring striker post-match.
Argentine loanee Jonathan Calleri has a solitary Premier League strike to his name this season and wasted a gilt-edged chance just before half-time, but remarkably attempted a 'rabona' and missed.
"If I was sure that he [Calleri] could have smashed it with his left I'd have gone crazy at him for missing it," Bilic said.
"I think the ball was in a position where it wasn't easy for him to have a shot with his left foot.
"It sounds crazy and strange but for him, it was easier to take this unexpected shot in a way."
The draw took Stoke to 40 points for the season, with West Ham just a point behind, but Bilic is not resting on his laurels.
"We need more points," he said. "It may be enough, nobody knows, but we don't want to get into the last game of the season with the radio on, asking what is the score is here or there, we need to avoid it.
"We are not safe, we have a lot to play for still but we need more points."
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