Image by: Phil Greig
15:00 18th August 2014
City gain a point in tough contest against Midlands rivals...
ASTON VILLA Under-21s 1 (Robinson 36)
STOKE CITY Under-21s 1 (Shenton 4)
STOKE CITY began their Barclays U21 Premier League season with a draw away at neighbours Aston Villa on Monday afternoon.
The Potters battled well in a 1-1 draw as the hosts dominated for large periods at the Villans' Bodymoor Heath Training Ground.
Oliver Shenton opened the scoring within the first five minutes before his effort was cancelled out by Michael Drennan midway in the first half as the Potters recorded their first points of the new under-21 season.
Development Squad head coach Glyn Hodges named a strong side with first team players Charlie Adam, Brek Shea and Ryan Shotton all starting for the Potters while Villa handed starts to Joe Cole and Jores Okore.
The hosts started brightly and created the first opportunity inside the first two minutes as Jack Grealish, who played against the City's first team on Saturday, burst into the area before delivering a low ball from the right which failed to find the lurking Drennan at the far post.
The Potters immediately reacted from Villa's early pressure in fine fashion and took the lead in the 4th minute through 16-year-old Shenton whose deflected effort from the edge of the penalty area was enough to beat goalkeeper Craig Hill.
Villa remained upbeat despite going a goal behind and the impressive Grealish was at the centre of attention once again.
The tricky winger used his pace to beat Ryan Shotton and dinked inside the area but his curling attempt towards the far post went over the upright.
City defended well and absorbed plenty of Villa pressure as they continued to dominate in search of an equaliser inside the opening 20 minutes, with centre-back's Mason Watkins and Sam Coulson standing firm from several Villa crosses.
Villa's continued surge on the Potters goal almost paid off when Joe Cole tucked a neat ball into the path of the overlapping Callum Robinson on the right side, whose drive across goal was met by Drennan, but his first time effort was brilliantly saved by Dale Eve on his goal line.
Winger Robinson was involved yet again minutes later as Villa started to up the tempo.
Australian midfielder Chris Herd was strong in the middle of the park and his superb ball found Robinson bursting into the area, but the Villa man's goal bound effort was deflected over Eve's goal.
The Potters gained their first opportunity on goal since going ahead through Charlie Adam just before the half-hour mark.
City looked as though they would catch Villa on the counter attack as Adam picked up the ball in his own half. The Scot opted for a speculative attempt to lob Hill from the half-way line, rather than play in an unmarked Robbie Parry bursting down the right wing.
Stoke almost doubled their lead just minutes later after great closing down from Brek Shea.
The American intercepted Lewis Kinsella deep in the Villa half, and his cross was almost turned in by defender Tom Legget, who thankfully for the Villa man his sliced clearance fall into Hill's hands.
The hosts then got the goal they deserved through Robinson on 36 minutes and Grealish was involved once more.
The midfielder held the ball up well under pressure on the edge of the area and spotted Drennan in space on the right wing. His low cross found Robinson bursting towards the front post and his neat flick flew past Eve into the Potters goal.
Stoke ended the half in bright fashion and Joel Taylor would have been disappointed not to have tested Hill in the Villa goal.
Parry tricked his way into the final third and found Adam, whose neat ball with the outside of his boot found Taylor who blazed his first time effort well over.
HT: Aston Villa U21s 1-1 Stoke City U21s
Villa started the second half as they did the first with pressure on the Potters goal. Eve was alert under pressure to punch away a fizzing ball into his goal mouth by Cole.
Eve was then called into action moments later as he pulled off a sensational double save.
Villa mounted an attack on City's goal and Robinson's volley was brilliantly saved by the diving Eve, and the winger reacted quickest to the rebound, but was thwarted by an outstanding point blank block from the Potters goalkeeper who prevented the hosts taking the lead.
Hodges' side began to find their rhythm on the hour mark as several crosses were cleared, with Ryan Shotton's driving cross from the right catching the Potters out as no red and white shirt capitalised inside the area.
Grealish was a constant danger in Villa's side throughout, under the watching eye of first team boss Paul Lambert as Stoke struggled to find momentum.
The midfielder's driving run was forced out wide by the Potters backline, but his neat turn and cross in the area was deflected out by Watkins in the six-yard box.
The Potters went in search of a winner inside the final 15 minutes as Shotton broke forward. His cut back found Parry on the edge-of-the-area but when he saw his first time effort blocked, the rebound fell to Shenton whose left footed drive was blocked by a wall of claret and blue shirts.
Shenton was involved again on 81 minutes after a neat ball by Adam found the local lad gliding into the area, his effort was well saved by Hill, who burst off his goal line before the attack was pulled up for offside.
City created several attacks late on and almost hit Villa on the counter attack.
Adam picked up possession midway inside the opposition half and found Parry on the left side. The winger cut inside and was unfortunate to see his curling strike hang in the wind before eventually seeing his effort fall wide.
Minutes later, Parry looked revitalised down the left flank and his low swerving cross found Shea, whose diving header was brilliantly tipped wide by Villa goalkeeper Hill.
The Potters almost took the lead from the resulting corner as Adam's high corner found Shotton leaping at the far post. His header was falling into the far corner before Drennan hooked the ball away off the goalline.
The Villa striker looked to have bagged the winner with the final chance of the game deep into stoppage time when he found space at the front post and fired past Eve, but his goal was denied by the assistant referee who waved his flag for offside.
Stoke City U21s: Eve; Shotton, Coulson, Watkins (C), Barber; Taylor (Thomas (81), Shenton, Adam, Lecygne, Parry; Shea. SUBS: Gyollai; Skapetis, Ward, Strong.
Yellow Card: Adam (45)
Aston Villa U21: Hill: Legget, Okore, Toner, Kinsella; Robinson, Cowans, Herd (Calder (62)); Grealish (Graham (73)), Cole (Sellars (73)), Drennan. Subs not used: Watkins; Lewis.
Yellow Card: Herd (57)