Xherdan Shaqiri’s late goal gave Stoke City a 1-0 win at the Britannia Stadium last night.
And the result – and Swansea City’s win over Arsenal – seemingly leaves second-bottom Newcastle, Sunderland and Norwich City fighting to avoid filling the last two relegation spots.
For his part, head coach McClaren – whose side take on Bournemouth at St James’s Park on Saturday – was heartened by his team’s performance, which followed a 5-1 defeat to Chelsea 18 days earlier.
“If you see the performance at Chelsea, and compare it to this evening, then we’ve definitely made progress,” said McClaren, who was jeered by supporters after the game.
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“I thought there were good individual displays, but overall it was a good team performance.
“You could see there was a determination to work for each other, and a spirit there, not just from the 11 that started, but from the subs as well.
“This game is cruel, and it’s been cruel to us again, but we’ll dust ourselves down and go again on Saturday.
“We’ve got 11 games left, and there’s a certain amount of wins we need.
“We don’t quite know the target yet, but we’ve got the talent to do that. If we show the attitude we have tonight, we’ll get them.”
Meanwhile, McClaren and his staff will assess Andros Townsend ahead of the Bournemouth game.
The winger missed the Stoke match with an unspecified injury. Midfielder Cheick Tiote also sat out the game.