STOKE CITY’S Under-18s recorded an excellent 4-1 victory over their Liverpool counterparts at their Kirkby Academy complex.
Charlie Ward’s penalty, two goals from Nathan Ricketts-Hopkinson and another from Kris Scott secured a well-earned three points and their first away League win since the opening game of the season.
They will also have captain Dale Eve to thank for a number of good saves including several from Liverpool striker Daniel Trickett-Smith in the opening nine minutes, with only a wonder strike from Harry Wilson able to get beyond the in-form goalkeeper.
The result extends the Potters’ unbeaten run to three games and ends the hosts own sequence of six matches without defeat.
City began the game sloppily though and could have been a goal down inside the opening two minutes.
Hesistation from Ed Sanders allowed Trickett-Smith to nick the ball away from him before racing clear and producing a first save of the morning from Eve.
He then forced the Bermudan goalkeeper to tip an effort around his left post as he searched for the top corner and dragged another shot wide of the opposite upright.
A fourth effort then came after a slip from Joe Hulme, but Eve was again more than a match after coming out quickly to close down the angle and block the shot.
With Stoke surviving that early onslaught they began to grow in confidence and produce efforts of their own.
Scott dispossessed Reds captain Jordan Rossiter on 17 minutes and played a one-two with Ricketts-Hopkinson, but couldn’t generate enough power from his shot to worry goalkeeper Ryan Fulton.
Rossiter was caught out again by Charlie Ward a minute later and in an attempt to regain possession he fouled the Stoke midfield inside the area.
Ward picked himself up to wrongfoot the keeper, coolly chipping the ball down the centre of the goal from the penalty spot to make it 1-0 to the visitors.
Wilson had what would prove to be an early sighter for his goal at the other end on 22 minutes, as he cut infield and fired over the crossbar from long range.
Rossiter also struck wide of Eve’s left post from 25 yards out as he looked to make amends for his earlier mistake.
Eddy Lecygne had to close down Ryan Kent and deflect his strike wide of the post as the home side pushed strong for an equalising goal.
Eve then tipped another Trickett-Smith shot over the crossbar as the defence was tested yet again by a determined Liverpool.
But not only did Stoke soak up the pressure, they then stunned the home team with a second goal just seconds after the restart.
Ricketts-Hopkinson broke free of the defence and evaded several challenges before poking the ball past Fulton to double the advantage.
Wilson again tried his luck to get Liverpool back into the game with another left-footed strike shortly after but this time it was deflected narrowly past the post.
On 65 minutes though, he got it right and cut infield from the right wing to fire the ball into the top left hand corner of the net.
Eve had no chance to save the effort and it looked like it could be a nervy end to the game for the Potters with Liverpool halving the deficit and pushing on strongly.
That wasn’t to be the case, however, as it was the visitors who had the better of the play in the remainder of the match.
Ricketts-Hopkinson was thankful that the flag was up for offside as he drove the ball the wrong side of the post after good work down the left by Ward and Derice Richards.
But he made no mistake on 72 minutes and finished Keiran Monlouis’ left wing cross emphatically to restore the Potters’ two-goal advantage.
Kris Scott then added a fourth as Liverpool pressed forward and left gaps at the back.
Ricketts-Hopkinson’s clever back-heal sent substitute Ryan Shenton down the left wing and his cross for Richards produced a block in which Scott was left with an easy finish.
Ward then forced Fulton into a good save at the near post in the dying moments after another driving run forward down the left by Richards.
The result will give a great amount of confidence to the lads ahead of the visit of table-topping Sunderland to Clayton Wood next weekend.