Stoke boss Michael O’Neill turned his attention to Nick Powell’s red card – and his team’s decisions in general – after they were beaten 2-0 at home to Middlesbrough.
Powell is set to serve a one-game ban, missing Tuesday’s game at Wigan, after he was booked twice in the space of two minutes in the dying stages of the game.
Stoke were pretty much beaten by then, having conceded to Ashley Fletcher’s 29th-minute header and James Tavernier’s long-range effort on 62 minutes.
But the incident summed up a hugely frustrating afternoon for Stoke, their fans and their manager after they failed to build on last week’s 1-1 draw at Reading when Powell’s injury-time header salvaged a point.
From that high to this low as Stoke could only reflect on a defeat that leaves them 20th, just one point outside the play-off places.
O’Neill said: “It is an unusual scenario playing here behind closed doors. But the anxiety we saw today in our play, it didn’t come from the crowd.
“I said that. The anxiety has come from within, it has come from he players themselves. So, they have to control that better. “They have to emotionally deal with that better than they did.
“Nick’s sending off is unnecessary, it doesn’t help us at all in any shape or form. And some of our decision-making when we went behind in the game was extremely poor.
“It was in terms of possession, and even just little things like our delivery at set pieces. All of those things. You can just hear the anxiety creeping into the players because they have gone behind in the game.
“That is something that we have to make sure we deal with in the remaining seven games.”