STOKE CITY’S Under-18s slipped to their third straight defeat after being beaten 3-0 by Aston Villa at Bodymoor Heath Training Ground.
All the goals came in the first-half, with strikes from Thomas Strain and Riccardo Calder, as well as a penalty from Jack Grealish, settling the match in the home side’s favour.
City will be frustrated with their display after looking sluggish throughout, and they’ll be concerned at conceding three goals for the third match in a row.
One key factor has been the absence of central defender and captain Ryan O’Reilly, who once again missed out as his recovery from a back injury continues.
The team remained unchanged from last week’s home loss to Newcastle United, with Joseph Hulme stepping in for O’Reilly once more and Kris Scott supporting the front two of Jack Nardiello and Derice Richards.
From the off, though, Villa were the more progressive side and took the lead after just seven minutes – Dale Eve saved well from Calder but Strain pounced on the rebound from a yard out.
City were struggling to get their passing game going, while the highly-rated Grealish was influential for the home team, jinxing through the Potters’ back-line on 23 minutes, although his square ball evaded all runners.
Moments later they had doubled their lead, however – Jordan Lyden crossed from the right, and Calder was quickest to pounce after the ball bobbled in the area and he stabbed home.
Things went from bad to worse for the Potters just after the half hour when Grealish was tripped down in the area after one of his mazy runs, before stepping up to confidently dispatch the spot-kick.
City’s desperation was summed up when Nardiello unsuccessfully tried to lob the ‘keeper straight from kick-off, although Jake Cook showed some endeavour just before the break but his left-footed effort cleared the bar.
Stoke made a double change at half-time, and although the contest evened out, it was more through Villa settling on their lead rather than the Potters making things click in attacking quarters.
One of the substitutes, Peter Makrillos, hit the side-netting after an intricate one-two with Kris Scott, but City’s offensive play was largely stunted and lacked incision.
Robin Dempsey’s header kept Eve on his toes up the other end, but Villa seemed content with their advantage as they refrained from throwing too many bodies forward as the half wore on.
Calder scooped over with 20 minutes left on the clock, while Richards had his best opening of the match on 77 minutes but his curling shot from the corner of the area was an easy claim for Craig Hill.
Another Dempsey header and Eve save proved to be the last action of the match as City’s run of defeats continued.
Stoke City: Eve; Cook, Coulson, Hulme, Strong; Lecygne (Ricketts-Hopkinson 78); Shields, Monlouis (Makrillos 45); Scott; Nardiello (Pilkington 45), Richards.
Aston Villa: Hill; Lyden, Dempsey, Bateman, Lewis; Calder (O’Brien 70), Melvin, Ward, Grealish (Crooks 80); Crowley; Strain.