STOKE CITY’s Under-18s suffered an agonising extra-time defeat to Huddersfield Town in the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday night as they went down 3-2.
James Alabi had equalised Duane Holmes’ opener from the spot, sending the game into an extra 30 minutes at a freezing Britannia Stadium.
Goals from Paul Mullin and William Boyle gave Huddersfield a cushion in the first period of extra-time, and although Peter Makrillos struck to set up a tense finale, the visitors held on to progress to a Fifth Round match against Nottingham Forest.
The City youngsters failed to reproduce the form that saw them rout Brighton & Hove Albion 4-0 in the previous round, and their attention will now have to focus to the rest of their Under-18s Premier League campaign.
They made three changes from Saturday’s defeat at West Bromwich Albion, with goalkeeper Dale Eve returning to the side along with Kris Scott and Alabi.
Stoke made a positive start, seemingly unperturbed by the occasion, although Derice Richards sliced a clearance while defending a corner in the 7th minute, leaving Mullin to smash his shot into the side-netting.
A Daniel Morton effort for the Terries was the only action in the following passage of play, although Ricketts-Hopkinson stretched his legs on 20 minutes, sprinting in field from the left but driving his effort wide of the right-hand post.
Huddersfield broke away moments later and had the clearest chance of the match up to then – Kedesh Goddard played back to George Conway, whose cross evaded the Potters defence, though Mullin could only miscue his header.
In the closing stages of the half, the visitors pressed and their forward play ultimately yielded the game’s opening goal.
With two minutes left on the clock, they raced up to other end and did everything but score as Mullin’s blocked shot fell to Duane Holmes, who with only Eve to beat lofted his shot into the Boothen End.
Holmes then jinxed through the Potters midfield in first-half stoppage time, only to see his low drive ricochet off the bottom of the post – his luck changed moments later, however.
The tricky midfielder gave Town the lead in spectacular fashion as his volley from the edge of area nestled in the left corner; the last action of the half.
The Potters should have made a decent start to the second half count on 56 minutes when Eddy Lecygne’s free-kick was flicked onto the back post where Coulson was waiting, but the defender blazed his first-time over the bar.
Ricketts-Hopkinson almost produced a little bit of magic for Stoke on 66 minutes when he picked up the ball on the corner of the penalty area, turned and flicked a shot with the outside of his right-foot, only to see it land on the roof of the net.
Despite their play, Stoke lacked an instinct in the final third as Huddersfield looked content to not commit too many men forward in search of a second goal.
They got the break they needed in the 82 minute, though – Alabi was hauled down at the near post as he went to flick on a corner, with the referee immediately pointing to the spot.
The powerful forward stepped up and dispatched the spot-kick, sending Wilczynski the wrong way.
As the game looked to be heading to extra time, Huddersfield looked the most likely to score and missed a golden chance in the 90th minute when Jake Charles’ floated cross was headed straight at Dale Eve by Mullin.
Mullin made amends in the fifth minute of added time as he re-established the visitors’ lead, though, turning in a cross from the right after the Potters had got themselves in a pickle at the back.
Two became three in scrappy circumstances once again, with Conway’s delivery not dealt with and Boyle got to the ball first and prodded past Eve, leaving the size of the task facing the young Potters a big one.
Stoke sensed all wasn’t over, though, and hauled themselves back four minutes into the second period of extra time when Makrillos drove in from the edge of the area via the aid of a deflection.
They pressed for that all-important equaliser with the backing of a vocal crowd, and went agonisingly close in the final minute when Kelvin Douglas steered wide, but it wasn’t to be as their FA Youth Cup campaign came to an end.
Stoke City: Eve; Cook, Coulson, Hulme, Taylor; Richards (Makrillos 72), Scott (c), Lecygne, Monlouis (Douglas 99), Ricketts-Hopkinson (Pilkington 83); Alabi.
Huddersfield Town: Wilczynski; Briggs, Wilkinson, Boyle, Starkey; Charles, Goddard (c), Morton (Ben Holmes 79), Duane Holmes, Conway; Mullin (Cox 100).