Middlesbrough Under-21s 1 (Kneeshaw 78)
Stoke City Under-21s 2 (Grant 3, Alabi 85)
JAMES ALABI's late strike earned Stoke City's Under-21s all three points in an action packed 2-1 win against Middlesbrough on Monday afternoon.
The forward prodded home a late winner at Boro's Rockliffe Park training ground to earn the victory, with Austrian ace Daniel Bachmann saving a second half penalty.
The Potters had taken the lead in the third minute through Alex Grant before Bachmann thwarted Bradley Fewster's strike from 12-yards on the hour mark following a handball in the box.
Middlesbrough did go on to equalise through Wilson Kneeshaw, but Alabi capitalised on a goalline scramble to score the winner.
Glyn Hodges’ side, who went into the game on the back of an unbeaten start to the year, were quickest out of the blocks and their efforts were rewarded after just three minutes when Grant headed in Alex Henshall’s left-wing corner to make it two goals in as many games for the former Portsmouth defender.
The early strike prompted a response from an experienced home side, which included first team players Stuart Parnaby and Seb Hines, when Bachmann was forced into a smart save to deny the lively Ryan Brobbel.
City however had good chances of their own to grab the game’s second goal before the interval as midfielder Charlie Ward flashed a shot just off target, before Karim Rossi saw his effort cleared by desperate defending in the opposition penalty area.
It was the home who started the second half brightly and Bachmann was called into action moments in when the Austrian ‘keeper got down well to deny Cameron Park’s free-kick from the edge-of-the-area.
Boro continued to apply the pressure and had a glorious opportunity to draw level on the hour mark when Irish defender Ryan O’Reilly was adjudged to have handled inside the penalty area, but Fewster was denied from the spot by an excellent save from Bachmann.
It was all hands to the pump as the hosts went in search of an elusive equaliser as Park went close with a free-kick which landed in the side netting, before Boro finally broke the Potters resistance with 12 minutes remaining as substitute Kneeshaw pounced inside the area after City failed to clear their lines.
City almost immediately retook the lead through Alabi but the 19-year-old was thwarted by an excellent last ditch challenge from Hines but the powerful striker wasn’t to be denied moments later.
Henshall’s cross from the left was stabbed forward by Ward inside the box before Alabi tapped home from close range to claim the victory and lift the Potters up to 10th in the league table.
Middlesbrough: Leutwiler, Parnaby (Bennett 46), Atkinson, Hines, Meling, Waters, Jones, Kitching, Fewster (Kneeshaw), Park, Brobbel. Unused subs: Fryer, Weledji, B Halliday.
Stoke City: Bachmann, Wheeler, O’Reilly (Taylor 81), Ward, Grant, Watkins-Clark, Thomas, Lecygne, Alabi, Rossi, Henshall, Unused subs: Eve, Heneghan, Dawson, Richards.