Derby boss Wayne Rooney will use the upcoming international break to reassess his options after a 1-0 defeat at Stoke left his side perilously close to the relegation zone.
Jacob Brown headed home the winner after 74 minutes to extend the Rams’ winless run to seven matches.
Lacklustre Derby failed to register a single shot on target and now sit just five points above the bottom three.
And Rooney admitted he was left cold by his side’s display.
“It was a disappointing performance, especially in the first half,” said Rooney.
“I felt the game was like a testimonial in the first half. That is fine for Stoke with where they are in the table, but it is not acceptable for us.
“There was a lack of aggression. Our game plan was to play on the front foot and be aggressive. We felt we could cause them trouble if we did that and in the end we did anything but that.
“I’m bitterly disappointed with the performance. We tried to get more energy into our play with our subs and to get men behind their back three.
“We lacked energy and quality, quality going forward and with the ball. The game was not great from both teams and I don’t think we deserved anything.”
Derby have not won since February 23 and Rooney knows they will have to do better if they want to play Championship football next season.
“We are just looking at ourselves and not the teams around us, that’s all we can do,” he said.
“The run of form over the last few weeks has not been good enough. If we didn’t know before then we know now that we are in a relegation battle.
“The international break has come at a good time. It gives us time to get some energy back and to rest mentally and physically.
“It gives me time to reassess the team and the players and see if there is anything I can do to get more out of the players.”
Stoke boss Michael O’Neill was pleased with the patience shown by his side as they battled to break through a stubborn Derby defence.
“It was the type of game where one goal would win it,” he said.
“We had a lot of control in the first half but we did not create enough.
“Our play was good from back to front but we couldn’t open them up. That is credit to their defending. They were tough to break down and we knew we had to be patient.
“We said at half-time we have been here before. We had to find a way to win the game and that is something we need to improve on given how many clean sheets we have had.
“The performance was excellent, we just had to make sure we saw it out.
“Our play was good in the second half and the goal was a good finish. Jacob has had a tough time in recent weeks. His form and confidence has dipped, but one thing you know is that he will empty his tank for you.
“He’s still a young player and there’s things he needs to work on, but you can guarantee his attitude and desire to improve is fantastic.
“The international break is welcome. It has been a relentless season, we will get a break and then build up to the Bristol City game.”