'The corner is very close'

After watching his side fight a competitive, if ultimately fruitless, 90-minute battle with Stoke City on Saturday, Gianfranco Zola feels the turning point in the current winless streak is getting ever closer.

After falling behind at the Britannia Stadium to an early James Beattie penalty, Zola's men rallied and Matthew Upson's superb header eleven minutes before the break got them back into the game. Backed by some vivacious travelling support, it was the visitors who looked the more dangerous after the interval.

They were aided by some tireless performances from the likes of Valon Behrami, Jack Collison and Mark Noble, who were all operating as part of a four-man 'diamond'. But against the run of play, it was to be Stoke who were to score the decisive final goal, as Beattie grabbed his second in the 68th minute to seal a 2-1 home win.

For the media afterwards, the main talking point was an incident seemingly not spotted by referee Martin Atkinson just four minutes after Beattie's second strike. Robert Huth appeared to catch Upson in the face off the ball, and if the referee had seen it as violent play, surely a red card and a penalty would have followed for the German.

"I saw the incident [afterwards]," Zola said. "Matthew is OK now and he has had a few stitches. Looking at the incident after the match, he would have been sent off. I can only assume the referee didn't see it.

"I haven't spoken to the referee about it. I don't think I need to. I can only assume he didn't see it as it was quite clear it was a sending off."

Turning to the contest itself, the manager shared his disappointment at heading home with nothing. "Well it's frustrating for us to come out with no points because when they scored the second goal it looked like we were going to win that game. It's tough for me to comment on that.

"It's tough for me to have a go at the players as I think they gave everything. It is encouraging that if we play like that it will be a different story soon - that is all I can say about that."

Again the manager felt his team were punished for simple errors. "It's the same as the situation we had last season, Right now we pay very hard for every little mistake that we make. The second goal was an easily repairable mistake in the midfield and they scored.

"It is not going our way but the team is determined to improve. The way they played it makes me feel that the corner is very close."