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'We need them now': Michael O'Neill asks Stoke fans to be patient after run of defeats

 

Cool heads: Michael O’Neill
Cool heads: Michael O’Neill

By Lewis Samuel

Michael O'Neill is demanding patience from frustrated Stoke fans following a run of three straight defeats that has plunged the club back into the Sky Bet Championship relegation zone.

O'Neill's 'honeymoon period' as the new Potters boss, following his arrival in early November, lasted for two games with back-to-back wins over Barnsley and Wigan.

But the trio of losses have again cast a pall over the club going into a crucial showdown with relegation rivals Luton at the bet365 Stadium on Tuesday night, followed by another home fixture with Reading on Saturday.

"I fully understand the frustrations of the supporters," O'Neill told a press conference. "It's been a difficult season for them but we have to ask them for patience. Some of the results since I came in have been disappointing but we need them now."

Aware he has problems to resolve, O'Neill added: "I joined the club on the basis that I believe I can change what's happening here.

"I have to sort out issues that come with a change of manager, which is natural. There are issues to be sorted out within the squad, and we're going to do that."

In stark contrast, Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds are aiming for a seventh successive league victory that would see them leapfrog West Brom at the top of the table.

The Whites enjoyed a seven-game winning streak at an almost identical time of the year last season before losing three in a row around the new year period that undermined their promotion push.

Asked what he learned from last season, ahead of Hull's visit to Elland Road, Bielsa said: "If there's something we have to learn from last season, it's what is important at the end not now. We can't think we have achieved something before we have."

Leeds' 2-0 victory at Huddersfield on Saturday means the Terriers are hovering one place above the bottom three on the back of a run of taking just two points from their last five games, after previously claiming 15 from 21 to haul themselves off the bottom.

With two away games looming, firstly at Charlton, boss Danny Cowley said: "This moment is a challenging one, and we're living amidst the storm that's for sure, but we're focusing on the games that are coming thick and fast and trying to accumulate as many points as possible in December."

Alex Neil has vowed to do all he can to halt Preston's alarming slide out of promotion contention as his side have lost their last four without scoring ahead of the visit to Deepdale of third-placed Fulham.

Neil said: "Throughout the course of the season you are going to have ups and downs. Until four games ago everything was going well for us.

"It's hard to put your finger on a reason why (the results have changed), but we want to get out of the negative momentum, and we'll be working as hard as ever to do that."

Fourth-placed Bristol City go in search of a third consecutive victory when they host mid-table Millwall at Ashton Gate, while fifth-placed Nottingham Forest take on relegation-threatened Middlesbrough at the City Ground.

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