STOKE CITY’s Under-18s came out on the wrong side of an even encounter against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday morning after going down 1-0.
The Baggies goal, early in the second-half, means the Potters youngsters start their Qualification Group One campaign on a losing note, although they will feel they deserved at least a share of the spoils given the chances created by both sides.
They will now have to pick themselves up quickly for the visit of Huddersfield Town in the FA Youth Cup, with a couple of players expected to return for that clash at the Britannia Stadium on Wednesday night.
Although they drew a blank on the day, City certainly had their fair share of chances, the first of which came barely seconds after kick-off – Nathan Ricketts-Hopkinson found himself through on goal after shrugging off the West Brom defender, but the ‘keeper was lucky to divert his low effort past the post.
After the home team went close with a set-piece on four minutes, Joel Taylor gifted them an opening when his pass went straight to their forward, whose shot, fortunately for City’s left-back, whistled wide.
Stoke wasted a great opportunity to take the lead on 15 minutes when Derice Richards miscued his shot well wide after a pinpoint pass from Jake Cook.
West Brom started to take control of the match after that, although Stoke did well to prevent any clear-cut chances, with the closest the Baggies coming when their left-winger cut in off the flank on 30 minutes but fired his shot straight at trialist ‘keeper Joe Wildsmith.
The second-half started with Stoke on the front foot, however, and Ricketts-Hopkinson found himself in plenty of room on the left on 53 minutes, but he hesitated and the home ‘keeper smothered his shot.
That was to prove costly, as just moments later up the other end, West Brom stole the advantage as the ball fell to their attacking midfielder 20 yards out, and with City slow to close him down, he dispatched a fine shot into the top right corner.
Stoke continued to have most the ball, though, but West Brom seemed content to sit on their 1-0 and restricted the Potters to long-range efforts, with one coming from Eddy Lecygne’s free-kick which went straight into the goalkeeper’s arms.
A couple of substitutions further energised the visitors, and Peter Makrillos wasted a good opportunity on 78 minutes as he broke into the area but blazed over the bar.
Makrillos then had a speculative shot from 25 yards that was an easy save, and it began to look as though City, for all their play, weren’t going to eke out a leveller.
Sam Coulson’s stretching volley in the penultimate minute, one that forced him off with cramp, was the final chance in the match, leaving the Potters to rue leaving pointless.
Stoke City: Wildsmith; Cook, Coulson (Sanders 89), Hulme, Taylor; Lecygne; Makrillos, Monlouis; Richards; Ricketts-Hopkinson (Douglas 71), Pilkington (Weston-Hayles 60).