Belfast Telegraph

Things become clearer for Hughes after Stoke's home loss to West Ham

Stoke must face up to the reality that they are currently in the midst of a relegation battle, according to boss Mark Hughes.

The Potters have taken just five points from a possible 24 since October and unravelled again late on against West Ham on Saturday in a 3-0 home loss.

Fan unrest was evident in the latter stages as chants of 'Hughes out' and 'sacked in the morning' were expressed by some home supporters at the bet365 Stadium, though chairman Peter Coates this week stressed he would not press the panic button.

Hughes guided Stoke to three successive top-half finishes before they came 13th last term, and their boss has no desire to see them toil in the lower reaches for the rest of the campaign.

"We're in this position and maybe it has given us a little bit of clarity," he told BBC Sport.

"My view is that we're better than what we're showing in terms of results. We've got to get ourselves out of this situation. We're in a difficult situation, one that I haven't been in since I've been here.

"I don't intend to be involved in a relegation battle, it's not what we should be doing but I think (we have) that clarity of understanding (that) actually we are in one at the moment.

"We've got to recognise that and do something about it. That's what we'll do.

"I know the league, this group of players and what they can produce on good days. Saturday wasn't a great day but we'll get a tune out of them and we'll be better."

In shipping three more goals to the Hammers, the Potters have now conceded 39 times in 18 games and could easily have breached the 40-goal mark if West Ham had been more clinical with the flurry of chances they had late on.

It is a trend that is worrying Hughes and leading to bigger defeats.

"You still have to have a defensive structure even when committing more men forward," he argued.

"It's hurt us in the past and continues to do so. It's happened too many times. You have to understand what is required.

"They could have had two or three more as a consequence of not doing things right. We need to do something about it."

In beating the Potters David Moyes' West Ham moved above them in the table and out of the bottom three for the first time since October.

The Scot guided his team to seven points from three fixtures with Chelsea, Arsenal and Stoke and captain Mark Noble was delighted to get through that period without conceding.

"It was a good performance, all in all, and we've kept three clean sheets in a week, which is some achievement, especially with the opposition we've played against," he told West Ham's official website.

"We've given the fans that belief now that they're going to come and watch us and we're going to get a result."

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