STOKE CITY’s Under-18s missed the chance to go above opponents West Bromwich Albion by falling to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Clayton Wood Training Ground on Saturday morning.
The Baggies got the game’s only goal from a direct free-kick in a first-half in which City were largely on top, although they failed to create many clear chances after the break and in the end the visitors were worthy of the three points.
Stoke had Dale Eve to thank after a trio of second-half saves kept the score at 1-0, although they’ll be disappointed not to have capitalised on some good play in the opening 45 minutes.
The result means West Brom have now done the double over John Perkins’ men after a similar victory in the West Midlands back in January, and it also leaves Stoke stuck on four points as they failed to take momentum from last weekend’s impressive win against Tottenham Hotspur.
It was once again a youthful eleven that took to the field for Stoke City, with Under-15 player Oliver Shenton starting on the left of midfield and Under-16 Lee Pickerill supporting him at left-back.
Kieran Monlouis started alongside Eddy Lecygne and Peter Makrillos in central midfield, and it was he who had the game’s first real shot at goal when he managed a clean strike from the corner of the penalty box on nine minutes that the Baggies ‘keeper did well to hold on to.
Stoke were the more aggressive side in the opening third of the match, and when Makrillos broke through on the right-hand side, his cross was dangerous but just evaded Shenton at the back post.
West Brom occasionally showed their pace on the counter-attack, but their goal came in fortunate circumstances.
Pickerill, who moments earlier had seen a long-range effort swing wide, fouled their right-sided midfielder, and he stepped up to whip in a free-kick that deceived Dale Eve as it flew over their forward’s head and into the corner.
City were unfortunate to be behind, and they pressed as the half drew to its conclusion – Jake Cook twice shot over, the second-time after being laid on by Richards seconds before the half-time whistle.
The second-half started quietly, but it West Brom who were having the larger share of possession this time around, and they should have doubled their lead on 58 minutes when their striker hit a low shot straight at Eve after a melee in the goalmouth.
Stoke had lost their creative spark and the Baggies’ forward missed another glorious opportunity, screwing wide after another scramble which involved Eve failing to collect a corner.
With eight minutes left, Eve made another excellent save as their winger bore down on him from the left-hand side, and when Stoke were controversially awarded an indirect free-kick instead of a penalty moments later you felt it wasn’t go to be their day.
Lecygne smashed his effort into the wall, and although City stuck to their task valiantly in the final moments, it was West Brom who stole the points.
Stoke City: Eve; Westley, Sanders, Hulme, Pickerill; Monlouis, Lecygne; Cook (Trialist 76), Makrillos (Douglas 66), Shenton (Ricketts-Hopkinson 87); Richards.