Michael O’Neill knows he needs to clear the decks at Stoke in January
Michael O’Neill wants to offload some of his underachieving players in January as Stoke lost 2-1 at Hull.
The Potters remain in the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone after Jarrod Bowen’s second-half brace consigned the visitors to a third defeat on the bounce.
Stoke fans reacted to this latest reverse with loud chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” at full-time.
And manager O’Neill said: “I understand the frustration of the supporters. We were disappointing.
“The performance was probably as poor as it’s been since I’ve been here – overall, we were second best.
“We have a big squad of players – too many players. I’d prefer to have a leaner, hungrier squad of players than what we have.
“That’s something we’ll have to address – but that’s something we can’t address until January.
“Between now and then hopefully we’ll see enough from the current group of players that will give me confidence going into January and beyond.”
By contrast to their second-half performance, Stoke made a bright start and even took the lead when Sam Vokes headed home after just seven minutes.
But the former Burnley striker’s first league goal of the season ended up being immaterial as Bowen had the final word.
The much-admired winger firstly let fly with a trademark strike from the edge of the penalty box after 49 minutes.
Hull’s equaliser had an alarming impact upon a fragile Stoke side, who conceded a second seven minutes later.
Tom Eaves’ header at the back post was parried by goalkeeper Jack Butland, with an unmarked Bowen given the freedom to prod the ball home.
O’Neill added: “We got a good bounce when I came in.
“We won two games and subsequently lost the next three. That’s a pattern that’s been here since before I arrived.
“When you go ahead you raise expectation and hope, but the second-half performance was nowhere near the level we expect to come somewhere like this and take something from the game.
“We lack a little bit of energy at times. We’re not as dynamic as some of the other teams that I see in the league.
“We should have got more belief from the start we made, but we allowed ourselves to be pushed back.
“Most of the pressure came from the mistakes that we made.”
Hull counterpart Grant McCann admits to running out of superlatives for Bowen, who has now scored 15 goals this season.
He said: “Every top team in this league has someone like Jarrod. I thought, first half, he was a bit quiet and getting a bit frustrated.
“They were two great goals from Jarrod, but I thought it was more about the team.
“The team performance was excellent. We conceded early off a good goal – you have to put your hands up as it was a good cross and a good header.
“But we didn’t panic. I thought we were controlled.
“After the first 10 minutes we showed a real control and composure about our game – we didn’t get flustered.
“The pleasing thing is that’s the first time we’ve come back from 1-0 down this season and, secondly, we’ve managed to turn around our home form a little bit.
“That will give us a wee bit more belief and confidence. I thought we got into some really dangerous areas – we’re looking a lot more dangerous. I think we deserved it, really.”