STOKE CITY’s reserve team were on the wrong end of a heavy defeat as they lost 4-1 at home to Fleetwood Town . . . but one positive was seeing Mamady Sidibe back on the scoresheet.
The Malian international has had horrific luck with injuries over the last two-a-half years, but looked sharp in his 75-minute stint and pounced to net what turned out to be a consolation for the Potters.
Steven Gillespie had earlier fired the visitors into a two-goal lead after just five minutes, and further strikes from Tom Barkhuizen and Alex Titchiner cemented the win.
Sidibe wasn’t the only recognisable face in City’s line-up – Carlo Nash, Danny Higginbotham and Diego Arismendi all started alongside youngsters from Elite Development Squad.
Fleetwood gave them an almighty mountain to climb, though, when Gillespie punished some slow Potters defending with two quick goals soon after kick-off.
His first goal was a scrappy one as Titchiner sprinted down the right and the former Colchester man bundled the ball home as Nash slid to try and claim the low cross.
The second followed three minutes later - Barkhuizen intercepted a poor clearance and slipped in Gillespie, who skilfully used the outside of his left foot to curl the ball past the City stopper.
Fleetwood should have had a penalty when Gillespie was hauled down in the area on 12 minutes, but Stoke came into game after and Sidibe forced a fine save from Chris Maxwell after Jadan Hall’s cross.
Hall played a part in City’s goal five minutes later when his cross picked out City’s trialist forward, who’s powerful drive was well-saved by Maxwell only for Sidibe to be on hand to turn the ball home.
The visitors were still the better side, however, and after Nash had saved well from Conor McLaughlin and Barkhuizen, the latter scored the third by drilling into the top of the net after a neat turn in the area.
Stoke would have still harboured belief of a turnaround at half-time, but hopes were all but extinguished just two minutes after the break when the instrumental Jamie Milligan played a pinpoint pass for Titchiner who rolled the ball into the corner.
Andy Musungu had a decent effort saved at the other end, but the second-half struggled to get going in blustery and wet conditions at Clayton Wood Training Ground.
Dave Kevan introduced Karim Rossi off the bench later in the half, and the Swiss striker dragged a shot wide from 25 yards on 77 minutes, while for Fleetwood Gillespie spurned a chance for a hat-trick when he nodded his header straight at Nash.
Stoke’s game was summed up in the final minutes when a scuffed clearance from Maxwell gifted Rossi with a clear shot at goal, but he hit a tame effort wide and the final whistle blew to their relief in the end.
Stoke City: Nash; Rigg, Keane, Higginbotham, Campbell; Hall, Trialist, Arismendi (Richardson 73), Musungu; Sidibe (Rossi 71), Trialist. Subs not used: Bachmann, Parry, Trialist.
Fleetwood Town: Maxwell; McLaughlin, Atkinson, Eastham, Goodall; Barkhuizen, Milligan, Kinsella (Wright 85), Titchiner; Ball; Gillespie. Subs not used: Thewlis, Allen, Peterson, Cairns.