STOKE CITY’S Under-18s were edged out 4-3 by Tottenham Hotspur in an open encounter at Hotspur Lane on Saturday afternoon.
Kris Scott, Nathan Ricketts-Hopkinson and Jack Nardiello all netted for the Potters in a frantic first-half that saw six of the game’s seven goals, but Kenny McEudy’s hat-trick and a close-range strike from Roman Michael-Percil narrowly settled the match in the hosts’ favour.
Spurs second-half dominance merited the three points, although City’s youngsters will be disappointed to score three times away from home and come away with nothing.
The result sees them slip further down the Group Two table, having now lost six of their ten games after a promising start to the campaign.
Neither defence will look back too fondly on the opening 45 minutes, as both forward lines found it all too easy to create opportunities and ultimately find the back of the net.
The game’s first goal came after nine minutes as Spurs took the lead – Lewis Banks was caught dallying in a vulnerable position by McEudy, and he sprinted down the left before squaring for Michael-Percil, who simply couldn’t miss from a yard.
Tottenham looked very confident in the early stages, but Dale Eve had blocked McEudy’s near-post shot, City got an equaliser out of the blue on 19 minutes.
A miscommunication in the Spurs backline left Nardiello with some space on the left-hand side of the area, and he chipped a cross for the unmarked Scott, the smallest player on the pitch, to head home.
The young Potters suddenly had a spring in their step and after Scott this time guided his header over the bar, they edged ahead on 28 minutes as Ricketts-Hopkinson scored his first goal of the season after shrugging off two defenders and nudging past Luke McGee.
Three minutes later, though, Spurs were back on level terms – Shaquille Coulthirst did well to pick out Michael-Percil on the right-wing, and his cross was bundled over the line by McEudy, who managed to pick up an injury in the process.
The theme of every attack resulting in a goal continued on 35 minutes as Spurs completed the turnaround with McEudy bagging his second – Dominic Ball’s inviting cross from deep on the right was met at the back-post by the winger, who made no mistake.
Stoke pushed for an equaliser and got their reward two minutes before half-time when Eddy Lecygne’s corner was nodded back across goal by Sam Coulson, with Nardiello reacting quickest to head into the corner.
Nardiello was denied another on the brink of the whistle, but it was perhaps apt that the teams went into the break level after such an open first 45.
The second-half started more soberly, but Tottenham were beginning to monopolise possession as the Potters’ attacking threat weakened.
Unlike the opening period, chances were few and far between and it took until the 71st minute for the hosts to break City’s resolve.
Josh Onomah showed his vision by picking out McEudy in the left channel, and the impressive youngster, reminiscent of a certain Gareth Bale, finished with aplomb leaving Eve with no chance.
City made a host of changes to try and turn the game back in their favour, but Spurs were always in control of the tempo of the match although Ricketts-Hopkinson did fizz a shot over the bar after a slick move involving Jake Cook and Scott.
They showed more intent as the game drew to a close, but after Derice Richards’ header from substitute Peter Makrillos’ free-kick went straight at the ‘keeper, you sensed it wasn’t going to be.
If anything, Spurs looked likely to extend their lead in the final stages, and Stoke had Eve to thank as he pulled off a spectacular double-save to deny first Coulthirst and then Will Miller just before the whistle blew.
Stoke City: Eve; Banks, Coulson (Sanders 65), Hulme, Taylor; Cook (Makrillos 81), Lecygne; Ricketts-Hopkinson (Swaby 74), Scott (c), Nardiello; Richards.
Tottenham Hotspur: McGee; Ball, Ogilvie, McQueen, Smith; Michael-Percil, Lesniak (c) (Lameiras 64), Dombaxe, Onomah (Miller 75), McEudy (Gardner 77); Coulthirst.