Here are your Stoke City morning headlines on December 27, 2020.
Player ratings vs Coventry
Stoke City played out their third goalless away draw in a row as they banged on the door but couldn’t get in at Coventry, who have only lost once in 10 games themselves. Here are the player ratings from St Andrew’s.
Bursik: So quick and ruthless off his line. Assured kicking too from a keeper who is coming into his own. 8
Smith: Got away with a terrible back pass in first half. Some decent deliveries going forward. 6
McClean: A good battle with Dabo down the left. Neat cross to find Powell in second half. 6
Chester: A touch of the Abdoulaye Faye about the way he stays calm on the ball at times. 7
Souttar: Has a knack of stretching out telescopic leg to nick ball back. Brave block late on after own mistake. 7
Collins: A bit of aggression, won headers and made a couple of important tackles. 7
O’Neill drops transfer hint after Fox injury
Morgan Fox is expected to miss at least a big chunk of January with a hamstring injury – highlighting a hole in the Stoke City side at left-back.
Fox missed the 0-0 draw at Coventry City after limping out against Spurs in mid-week – and that one injury forced Michael O’Neill to change his shape from four at the back to a 3-5-2 with James McClean on at wing-back.
The transfer window opens on January 2 to give Stoke an opportunity to bring in competition and cover if they can find the right man.
“The left-back position has been a problem for the club since before I arrived,” said O’Neill. “Last season we ended up with Bruno Martins Indi playing there a lot of the time. Today we played with three at the back and James at wing-back.
“I think James and Josh Tymon are both more suited to playing as a wing-back rather than full-back.
“That’s the situation we find ourselves in. We compensated for it quite well today with three at the back, who I thought were quite solid as well. We’ll just see what happens in January to see if that’s something we need to address.”
Key duo set to return on the back of Allen comeback
John Obi Mikel and Sam Clucas are set to follow Joe Allen back to fitness – and all three could be in contention for the mid-week clash with Nottingham Forest.
Allen made his comeback against Coventry after nine months out with an Achilles injury. The 30-year-old midfielder played the final half hour in a major boost for a Stoke side which harbours ambitions of breaking into the Championship top six.
Mikel and Clucas are on the comeback trail too.
Mikel has been on the sidelines with calf and groin trouble since limping out of a goalless draw at Sheffield Wednesday last month while Clucas was caught on the foot by Sam Morsy in a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough on December 5.
O’Neill said: “Great to see Joe back. It was really good to get him on the pitch. Straight away he showed his composure and what he’ll bring to the team.
“We’ve had to hold him back a little bit but today was a real positive for the group – and John Obi and Sam Clucas are both in contention for Tuesday (against Nottingham Forest) too and, if not Tuesday, then Saturday (against Bournemouth).”