Stoke manager Michael O’Neill was left to bemoan “probably the worst performance” of his reign after seeing his side thumped 3-0 by Wigan in the Sky Bet Championship.
While opposite number Paul Cook praised his team’s display as their best of the season “by far” as they moved eight points clear of the drop zone with only six matches remaining, O’Neill delivered a scathing assessment of his players’ efforts.
“It was a poor performance, poor attitude for the game, poor appetite for the game,” said O’Neill, whose side can slip into the relegation zone on Wednesday night if results go against them.
“Clearly the hungrier side won, the better team won.
“It’s probably the worst performance we’ve had since I’ve been here and a real concern given where we are at this stage of the season.
“All we can do is continue to work with the players, this is the group of players we have.
“Do we change the system to keep us more solid defensively and give us a bit more of a threat?
“But tonight we were just second best all over the pitch and that’s just an individual thing.
“You have to have the courage to play, and you have to have respect for your team-mates and your club to play. We didn’t show any of that tonight.”
When asked whether there any positives he could take, he replied: “I can’t take any positives out of that, none.
“I thought Sam Vokes was our best player, but in terms of a supporting cast, there was very little.”
Cook was happy to wax lyrical after seeing his side dominate the game from start to finish.
They had to wait 40 minutes for Everton loanee Kieran Dowell to open the scoring with his first goal for the club, his shot deflecting in off Jack Butland.
But a brace from substitute Kal Naismith, also breaking his duck for the campaign, in the space of three minutes midway through the second half gave the scoreline a far more accurate look.
“That was an absolute top-class performance from us tonight,” said the Wigan boss.
“The only disappointment possibly was that it was only 1-0 at half-time.
“We created clear-cut chances, we dominated possession, and our appetite for work when we didn’t have the ball was so impressive.
“It was as good as I’ve seen us play for a long time, and I’m really delighted for all the players.
“I could go right through the team with compliments, but it was just a really special performance from a very good group of players.”
Rating the display, he added: “The best this season by far.
“We’re playing against a Stoke team fighting for their lives, full of good players, international footballers, all over the pitch.
“But we were so good tonight and great credit to all the lads.
“We started the game on the front foot, we managed the game so well, and we’ve come so far in a few months.
“And it’s just great for me as a manager to be stood on the sidelines watching it all.”
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