Stoke City’s Under-18s continued their preparations for the 2012/13 campaign with a 2-2 friendly draw against Birmingham City today at Clayton Wood Training Ground.
After a testing training camp in Northamptonshire last week that included three games in five days, the youngsters returned to home turf to face the Blues in their penultimate match before the season’s inception.
With an eleven made up primarily of first-year scholars, the Potters did well to restrict an incisive Birmingham attack and will ultimately be happy with the share of the spoils earned thanks to strikes from Peter Makrillos and James Alabi.
The majority of the game’s highlights occurred in a frenetic first 25 minutes where both sides demonstrated a clinical eye in front of goal.
It took only seven minutes for the deadlock to be broken, and it was the home team who grabbed the initiative when Makrillos stroked the ball into the empty net after a poor clearance from the visiting ‘keeper meant his goal was left unattended.
Birmingham drew level only three minutes later – a deep corner was nudged back across the goalmouth, and the diminutive Kobi Arthur managed to head home impressively.
The visitors showed greater urgency going forward with Stoke struggling to sustain possession, but it was the Potters who regained the advantage on 19 minutes when Derice Richards cleverly worked some space on the right before squaring to Alabi, who made no mistake from six yards.
Half-time came and went with The Blues unfortunate to be trailing, but they soon made amends just five minutes after the break – Reece Brown, who impressed throughout, beat two City players before drilling the ball into the bottom corner.
In classic friendly fashion, both sides experimented with substitutions in the second-half, and while Birmingham hit the woodwork twice, Stoke had to wait until the 85th minute for their best chance to seal the win, but Eddy Lecygne’s curling effort after an indirect free-kick was well parried by the Birmingham stopper.
The youngsters will be grateful for some downtime now after a challenging seven days. Last Tuesday they beat Northampton 3-1 thanks to strikes from Jack Nardiello, Kris Scott and Richards, before going one better versus Kettering on Thursday with a 4-1 triumph – a hat-trick from Alabi and a Callum Pilkington goal being the difference in that one.
They ended the trip on Saturday with a 1-2 defeat at Norton United, where Nardiello got himself on the scoresheet once again.
The team’s final friendly is against Hartlepool this Saturday at Clayton Wood Training Ground (12pm KO).