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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

There's no end in sight to Potters' pain as ten-year Premier stay ends

Five things we learned from the weekend

Defeat to Crystal Palace at the weekend sealed Stoke's relegation
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Paul Lambert was brutally honest after Stoke's relegation, admitting the team had not been good enough, and a big improvement is needed if the Potters are to bounce back.

Stoke's winless run extended to 13 matches with Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace which showcased their limitations in defence and attack.

A moment of Xherdan Shaqiri magic gave them a precious lead but their main offensive tactic was to launch long balls to 37-year-old striker Peter Crouch.

It is little wonder that they have struggled up front and conceding two second half goals was no great surprise for a side with the joint-worst defensive record in the division.

Keeping Shaqiri is going to be difficult and there are question marks over the futures of Jese Rodriguez, Kevin Wimmer and Saido Berahino, who have been frozen out of the first team picture.

Stoke came out of last summer's transfer window badly and they must recruit more wisely to have any hope of promotion next season.

Tyneside takeover cannot come quickly enough

Watford are often criticised for their lax end-of-season performances but they showed much more desire and quality than Newcastle to triumph 2-1 at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Newcastle made the game interesting with a second-half rally but were not at the races in the opening 45 minutes and could have been 4-0 down at the break.

Rafa Benitez is the main reason Newcastle have survived.

The Magpies squad looks inferior to that of several of the teams below them and fresh investment is needed for the club to avoid an uncertain future.

Sunderland are down but not out

It has been an awful couple of years for Sunderland fans but they are entitled to feel more positive about the future after watching yesterday's thumping 3-0 win at home to Wolves.

Trips to Accrington and Wycombe are on the agenda next season but Sunderland will be a big fish in Sky Bet League One and there are signs that they may be ready to swim rather than sink.

They finished the season with tough matches away to Fulham and Wolves but impressed against both teams with some of their younger players taking centre-stage.

Sunderland lost 2-1 at Fulham after being on the wrong end of some poor refereeing decisions, but they responded with a superb performance against a strong Wolves side.

They won the shot count 19 to seven against Wolves and did it while handing game-time to six academy graduates - defender Denver Hume, midfielders Ethan Robson, Luke Molyneux, Bali Mumba and Elliot Embleton and striker Joel Asoro.

A takeover was completed in the run-up to the Wolves game and the new regime have every chance of succeeding if they can harness the club's talented youngsters.

Shrews running out of steam

Shrewsbury have been one of the surprise packages in the EFL but will need to upset the odds again if they are to win the League One playoffs.

The Shrews pushed Blackburn and Wigan hard until the last few weeks of the season but have hit their worst run of results at the worst possible time.

Saturday's 1-0 loss at home to relegated MK Dons leaves them with only one victory in the last seven games.

They still finished 16 points above sixth-placed Charlton but a huge improvement will be needed if they are to get past the Londoners in the playoff semi-finals.

Imps inching nearer to promotion

Lincoln scraped into the Sky Bet League Two playoffs in seventh place but have every reason to be confident as they target a second successive promotion.

Danny Cowley's side are a hard team to beat - they have lost just two of their last 13 games - and are used to pressure, having fended off a strong challenge from Tranmere in last season's fifth-tier title race.

Lincoln attracted more than 10,000 fans for their 1-1 draw with Yeovil on Saturday and their passionate support could be a key element as they battle it out with Exeter in the playoff semi-finals.

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It has been an awful couple of years for Sunderland fans but they are entitled to feel more positive about the future
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