Stoke boss Nathan Jones suggested speculation around Jack Butland is affecting his goalkeeper after he made two costly mistakes in their 3-1 Sky Bet Championship defeat at Preston.
Daniel Johnson, Billy Bodin and Josh Harrop’s goals sealed North End’s second win of the season but they were aided at key moments by underwhelming Stoke defending.
Butland, the subject of much speculation over his Stoke future, was at fault for the goals the Potters conceded.
“We are on the bus and it’s on Sky Sports about him being left out of the England side,” said Jones of his goalkeeper.
“Everyone talks about him having to leave for his England place, but he’s got to do his job for Stoke first,” added Jones on Sky Sports.
“I don’t know where mentally he must be because there’s so much talk about him.
“You don’t go from being a top goalkeeper to making the errors he is, there must be something playing on his mind.
“But look, he’s a top keeper who trains really well, but it doesn’t help us.
“I have to pick a side to win a game because if I don’t, trust me there will be a lot more than Jack Butland to worry about.
“Since I’ve come here there’s been a hangover of players wanting to leave, players thinking they are proper players, players wanting to go and play in Europe, players thinking of their international careers.
“There hasn’t been a group here together who wants to play and focus and win games for Stoke City, that’s a problem.
“I thought we made big strides in that, but evidently we haven’t.”
Jones was also critical of his side’s defending in his post-match press conference, admitting: “You can’t defend like we did and expect to get anything from a game like this.
“We were definitely still alive at half-time, and I pointed that out to the players. They just didn’t take enough on board.
“A major problem for me is that teams are not having to do a hell of a lot to score against us. That’s costing us dearly.
“We’re not doing a hell of a lot wrong right now. I think Preston have had four efforts on target and scored with three of them.
“We competed well enough in the early stages, then we’ve gone and shot ourselves in the foot again.
“We haven’t defended well enough, and when that happens in the Championship you get punished.”
James McClean’s late finish proved a consolation against a clinical Preston side.
Early on, Bodin’s right-wing cross was only meekly headed clear into the path of Johnson, who opened the scoring as Butland allowed his shot to creep in.
Bodin’s weak then shot squirmed under Butland’s grasp and the game was wrapped up in the second half when the goalkeeper parried a shot into the path of Harrop who tucked home.
“This was always going to be a tough game so I’m really pleased,” said Preston manager Alex Neil, who confirmed striker Louis Moult has suffered a cruciate ligament injury and could miss the rest of the season.
“The lads have carried out all their instructions great, so I’m really pleased everything worked out well on the night.
“It’s hard to be critical after a performance like that, but to be honest I thought we were poorer than we were at Swansea on Saturday.
“We struggled at home at times last season, so that home form needed improving. It’s been a good start this time around, so we have to build on these opening two wins here.”
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