STOKE CITY ended Southampton's unbeaten record in the Barclays Under-18s Premier League with an excellent 2-1 triumph at Clayton Wood Training Ground.
Derice Richards and Ryan O’Reilly both scored in the opening period to condemn the visitors to defeat, with an Omar Rowe goal being their only consolation.
In a tightly-contested match, City took their chances when they came and managed to hold on throughout the second-half to grab the three points and their fourth win of the season.
Peter Makrillos returned from a lengthy injury lay-off for the young Potters, slotting into central midfield with Jake Cook moving to right-back, replacing Sam Westley.
Richards continued with Jack Nardiello up front and he showed great awareness when he opened the scoring just two minutes into the game
A poor clearance fell to the Nantwich-born forward, who spotted ‘keeper Chris Johns off his line and found the net superbly from 25 yards.
After a fortnight without a competitive match, City’s players were clearly keen to make an impression and were sharper on and off the ball in the opening phase of the match.
Southampton nearly equalised on 12 minutes, though, when Ryan Seager beat City’s offside trap, but Dale Eve did enough to put the forward off and he nudged his shot wide.
The midfields locked horns in a very competitive first-half, and it was from a set-piece that City doubled their lead on 25 minutes.
French midfielder Eddy Lecygne whipped a fine ball in from the left hand side, and O’Reilly rose higher than everyone else to crash a header home off the underside of the crossbar – his third goal of the season, making him joint top scorer with Richards.
Stoke continued to look the more threatening when they reached the final third, although the game was generally even, as to be expected between two sides who have started the campaign so well.
Rowe was Southampton’s standout threat, and he pulled one back five minutes before half-time – Lecygne’s misplaced past played in Seager, and he turned possession over quickly to Rowe, who cut in from the left and tucked a shot past Eve.
After the break, the match continued in the same fashion, and it took until the 61st minute for an opening – Rowe’s subtle cross was met with a reverse header by Seager, but it just cleared the bar.
The visitors sensed a leveller and went close again when Rowe’s drilled cross found Charlie Higgins, but once more it went over.
Nardiello, who was rewarded for his form with a call-up to Wales Under-19s in the week, should have scored on 66 minutes when Curtis Strong played him through, but his effort was straight at Johns.
Stoke were generally defending well and restricted the Saints to long-range shots through Dominic Gape and Harrison Reed, and they could have got a third themselves on 81 minutes.
Kris Scott played a delightful pass for substitute Ryan Shields to run onto, and his well-hit drive was tipped over the bar by Johns.
In added time, James Alabi burst down the right before squaring to Marcel Barrington, but he scuffed his effort and it was an easy collection for the Saints ‘keeper.
With considerable injury-time due to a number of stoppages, City were made to wait longer than ideal but held on comfortably for a superb win.
Stoke City: Eve; Cook, Coulson, O’Reilly (c), Strong; Lecygne; Makrillos (Shields 66), Monlouis; Scott; Nardiello (Alabi 77), Richards (Barrington 85). Subs not used: Gledhill, Sanders.
Southampton: Johns; Leggett, Mugabi, McCarthy, Colmer; McQueen (Higgins 8 (Simms 79)), Flanagan, Gape (c), Reed, Rowe (Hesketh 68); Seager. Subs not used: White, Clinton.