Alex Neil knows it will be an important milestone as Stoke City try to pick up consecutive wins for the second time this season, but he is encouraged by more than just the results of recent weeks.
Stoke host Millwall this afternoon thanks to an important morale-boosting win at Swansea earlier in the week, while fifth-placed Gary Rowett’s Millwall have just taken four points from Sheffield United and Burnley in their last two matches.
It has been an on and off season for Stoke and wins over Sheffield United and Preston North End in October are the only time they have followed one win with another. But they’ve won three of their last six, the coach is convinced there should have been four, and he wants to end the season on a positive note.
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Neil said: “I don’t think it’s been (recently) in terms of performance. The Blackpool game put a monkey wrench in the works in that regard. If we had won that game, we’d be having a slightly different conversation right now.
“I understand that goals change games and decide games, but we had a lot of chances to win that game regardless of the result.
“That’s naturally frustrating for us, but you don’t always do things your way, so it’s all about how you bounce back, and I think we bounced back great (Tuesday).”
Neil has pointed out improvements in defense and attack, but he knows that the key is to provide evidence of that in every game.
“We want consistency now and that’s something we’ve talked about,” he said.
“We have improved many aspects in terms of how we are playing. I think we have also improved defensive aspects. The signs are there that all this is beginning to improve.
“But you have to do it on a consistent basis. It can’t be that you do well one week and not so well the next and you don’t really know what you’re going to get.
“Consistency for us is our next big challenge. If we can get a consistent run of results together, we’re two points out of 12th at the moment and in the middle of the table, so the league has absolutely nothing.
“Perception in football is everything. There are teams that are a point or two ahead of us that everyone will think they had a great season and everyone thinks we’ve had a shitty season and we’re one win away from jumping over those teams.
“The season is not a sprint. It’s a marathon and where = you finish is where you deserve to finish. We want to finish the season strong. We want to move up the table, we want to make sure we’re not at that bottom end where we’ve been for periods of the season.
“The only way to do that is to get consistency in our game.”
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