So a day of slightly mixed emotions for Stoke, but at least they are helping to drag others into the relegation equation…
We weren’t sure he would play, let alone play where he did, but leaving the pitch towards the end with the PA announcing he was the sponsors’ man-of-the-match must have been music to his ears.
Having played out on the left on his full debut a week earlier, this time out he was played in front of the back four to demonstrate his manager’s faith in his ability and versatility.
He cut a pretty composed figure throughout, on and off the ball, and can take his slice of the credit for Stoke’s first clean sheet in five.
Whether this is any kind of long-term position for him is another matter, of course, but it’s another string to his bow and one Michael O’Neill will feel entitled to call upon again, whenever required.
That pass early in the first half, the one that put Tyrese Campbell clear for a shot against the keeper’s legs, was on a par with the best by any player in a Stoke shirt this season.
Wafting the ball outside the retreating central defender to release Campbell left of goal, it was reminscent of the kind of pass Kevin de Bruyne regularly pulls out of the drawer with his right foot.
Clucas has that kind of moment in his locker and it is to the likes of Clucas that O’Neill will look when/if Stoke are looking to vacate the Championship by an altogether different route.
He and Joe Allen certainly provide an experienced and dependable backbone to the side and one O’Neill is already building his team around, whatever formation he chooses.
Aren’t Wigan a pain? Without them, the bottom three might be almost done and dusted by now and the likes of Stoke could rest easy at night.
But thanks to a 1-0 success at home to Millwall, which means just one defeat in their last six, Wigan kept the gap to just three points between themselves in the relegation zone to Stoke City in 19th.
Crucial that Stoke did beat Cardiff, then, and in the process they and Wigan have further dragged the likes of Huddersfield and even Hull into the mire.
Hull City have capsized since selling their two best players – Jarrod Bowen and Kamil Grosicky – on transfer deadline day and they managed to turn a 1-0 lead into a 2-1 defeat at Preston yesterday.
Stoke can boost their position further over the next week with trips to Blackburn and then Luton, before their next home game against… Hull City.