Jack Butland has a reputation as an elite goalkeeper despite plying his trade in England’s second tier. On his day, there are only a handful better goaltenders in the business. However, his legacy is gradually being tainted by lost of focus and tendency to commit silly mistakes.
When Stoke City visited Preston North End in the Championship on Wednesday, they were expected, to at least return with a share of the spoils. Although the Lilywhites had better momentum, the visitors were quite unpredictable.
Nathan Jones’ men came into the tie with a point to prove, searching for their first victory of the season. While QPR and Charlton took all three points, they managed a draw at home against Derby County. That made eight dropped points from a possible nine. A win was needed to kickstart their campaign.
Jones set his team on that path. They dominated possession, frustrating their hosts with their beautiful exchanges. That final ball was lacking, though, the signs were positive for the travelling fans. However, at the snap of the finger, they were 2-0 down, with both goals stemming from mistakes by Butland.
Daniel Johnson opened the scoring in the seventh minute when his shot from the edge of the box – one which was far from perfectly struck – found a way past the England international’s weakly attempted dive. Butland arose with his hands on his hips.
Barely 17 minutes later, he would be sitting on the grass with his head between his legs and his side 2-0 down. After the 26-year-old’s punched clearance landed at the feet of Billy Bodin, the Welsh midfielder’s shot squeezed beneath his body.
There were flashes of his usually high standards afterwards. He saved an initial shot by Johnson albeit had no answer for Josh Harrop follow-up. And not even James McClean’s late consolation, tapping home Tom Edwards’ far-post cross, could prevent this from being a miserable night.
Butland has been full of mistakes this season, and you never know when the next one is about to rear its ugly head. He looked uncomfortable under pressure from North End, shots or set pieces. His clangers are gradually becoming an often sight.
He was culpable for QPR’s sole strike in the 2-1 home defeat. Butland was guilty of hasty decision making and some rash goalkeeping as Stoke conceded within eight minutes. His rush of blood continued against Charlton, characteristically gifting the opener.
His recent blunder is third in just four appearances. According to Sky Sports, Butland has a save ratio of 38 per cent, having conceded eight of 13 shots faced. No other goalie in the division posses such appalling return. He has been beaten 10 times already – more than any other shot-stopper
Butland hasn’t suddenly turned in to a bad goalie overnight. These days, he’s become very good at making a grave decision. There’s also the distraction of a failed Premier League return and possible loss of Three Lions’ place.
With the Potters rooted to the bottom of the log, Jones must decide whether to keep faith with his number 1 or look elsewhere. The latter looks likely.
Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby