THE ONLY WAY IS UP? DON’T YOU BE­LIEVE IT...

Wales On Sunday - - SPORT ON SUNDAY - AN­DREW GWILYM at the Bet365 Sta­dium sport@waleson­line.co.uk

THERE may have been a goal for Swansea City fans to cheer, but this lat­est de­feat and a with­er­ing post-match sum­ming up from Paul Cle­ment will only raise fur­ther ques­tions about the fu­ture of the head coach, and the Welsh club as a go­ing con­cern in the Premier League.

Bot­tom of the ta­ble, four points from safety and with just one point from the last seven games. Where next for Swansea and Cle­ment?

The op­ti­mists would say the only way is up, but per­for­mances – let alone re­sults – would not back up any at­tempt at a rose-tinted view.

Yet the af­ter­noon had started so pos­i­tively. Wil­fried Bony scor­ing the Swans’ first goal in 431 min­utes with a lovely fin­ish from Martin Ols­son’s cross.

It was the 28-year-old’s first for Swansea since New Year’s Day 2015, it was his first goal any­where since Hal­loween 2016.

‘We’ve scored a goal’ chanted the trav­el­ling sup­port, al­most in surprise as much as ju­bi­la­tion.

For a while. all the frus­tra­tion be­longed to the hosts. Their ten­ta­tive at­tacks prompted un­rest among the na­tives and while the Pot­ters huffed and puffed, Swansea ap­peared to be com­fort­able.

Then dis­as­ter struck. Leroy Fer hes­i­tated around 10 yards out­side his own box and was swiftly dis­pos­sessed. Joe Allen slid in Xher­dan Shaqiri and in a flash it was 1-1.

It was down­hill from there. Frag­ile con­fi­dence punc­tured, Swansea were rat­tled and all the good work of the open­ing 36 min­utes was soon un­done.

A punt for­ward four min­utes later, a Peter Crouch knock­down and slug­gish de­fend­ing ended with Mame Diouf vol­ley­ing home.

It would have been worse had the gan­gly striker made more of an er­ror from Al­fie Maw­son as Diouf stole the ball from the cen­tre-half.

The half-time whis­tle came as a mercy. Swansea re­grouped and had enough ball and ter­ri­tory to have taken ad­van­tage of this Stoke side who were al­most as edgy and nervy as them­selves.

But that lack of guile and craft was clear to see.

That “tooth­less” el­e­ment Cle­ment cas­ti­gated post-match was all too ev­i­dent, even though the stats would tell you they matched Stoke for shots and shots on tar­get.

Even when in good sit­u­a­tions they could not ap­ply the cru­cial touch. Sam Clu­cas missed a Tammy Abra­ham pull-back, the striker shanked a cross into touch with Bony un­marked.

Ki did at least work Jack But­land with a low drive, but the clos­est Swansea came to an equaliser was Ryan Shawcross’ mis­cued de­fen­sive header, which the keeper tipped over his own bar.

The issues re­gard­ing re­cruit­ment and the im­bal­ance in this Swansea squad have been well-doc­u­mented and are cer­tainly do­ing lit­tle to help the man­ager, who was given no short­age of vo­cal sup­port from the away end dur­ing the game.

But, re­gard­less of those issues,

Swansea and Cle­ment sim­ply have to be able to do bet­ter.

The ta­ble does not lie, they are bound for the Cham­pi­onship un­less there is a sig­nif­i­cant up­turn.

There have been small hints of im­prove­ment, but in­cre­men­tal steps are not go­ing to get the job done.

Cle­ment did not mince his words post-match, he was forth- right in his state­ments, but they did leave one won­der­ing if they were the words of a man at the end of his tether with a nod to what might be com­ing next.

He was de­spon­dent. Un­sure of where next to turn in search of the so­lu­tions to the myr­iad of prob­lems he out­lined.

He even ac­cepted that his fu­ture is not in his own hands, and it is down to the club hi­er­ar­chy to de­cide what is best.

Of course, that is al­ways the case at any club.

Man­agers do not dic­tate their timescale at a club, per­for­mances and re­sults do, and a lot of the signs are point­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion for Cle­ment and Swansea City.

One high spot for the Swans... Wil­fried Bony’s open­ing goal at Stoke

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