Joe Allen’s sad injury leaves Michael O’Neill with a huge decision to make in midfield at Reading tomorrow – and in the long term.
Get it wrong, however, and suddenly that bottom three looms menacingly back into view on the back of a couple of poor results.
His answer last Saturday was to bring on 20 year-old Tashan Oakley-Boothe, a Tottenham youth until six weeks ago, for his first Stoke appearance and he did well in that second period against Hull after growing into the game and eventually teeing up the fifth and final goal.
But Reading away, for a potential 90 minutes, is another story.
Won’t O’Neill want more experience and solidity this weekend?
If so, and with Jordan Cousins now recovered from his cut foot, then the obvious answer would be to plonk him back in front of the back four.
Jordan Thompson would then move into Allen’s position to partner Sam Clucas, always assuming O’Neill wants to play the same shape.
That would be hard on Thompson after impressing in front of the back four and arguably producing the best of his three previous performances there last Saturday.
But the young Northern Ireland international has already proved his adaptability by playing there in the first place and the manager rightly appears to have plenty of faith in his protege.
His versatility has certainly been one of the big plusses of the past few weeks and may now be crucial to his team’s progress at Reading.