A SPIRITED second-half display wasn’t enough for Stoke City’s Elite Development Squad as they fell to a 3-0 defeat against Newcastle United on Friday afternoon.
Facing a two-goal deficit at half-time and the prospect of playing against a strong wind after the break, City put in a determined display but were ultimately defeated in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League clash.
The strength of the Magpies’ starting eleven, one that harboured considerable first-team experience in Sammy Ameobi and Nile Ranger among others, meant that a relatively young Stoke team’s task was going to be a difficult one from the off.
Coach Dave Kevan will have been happy that his side’s heads never dropped, yet, following the team’s 5-0 humbling by Norwich City in the opening game of the new league structure, this match provided further evidence of the challenges that will face the Potters between now and the end of the season.
Newcastle’s quality was evident from the first whistle, and they took the lead on the quarter-hour mark as their left-back beat two Stoke players easily before firing past Dan Bachmann into the bottom right-hand corner.
Stoke refused to be penned in, however, and forced a number of corners , with one move leading to James Alabi having a shot blocked after a fine cross by full-back George Rigg.
On 30 minutes, though, Newcastle doubled their advantage in fortunate circumstances.
Adam Campbell advanced into the final third and played a one-two with a teammate, yet with his shot looking destined for Bachmann’s palms, it deflected off the luckless Ed Sanders and into the net.
City battled on and a couple of minutes later, Jordan Richardson looked confident as he lined up a free-kick 25 yards from the goal but, with the help of the wind, it sailed over the crossbar.
One of the Potters’ trialist midfielders then kept the Newcastle ‘keeper on his toes with an even more audacious long-range effort that was inches away from the frame of the goal as it went over.
As the half drew to a close, Newcastle got two lucky breaks - firstly their goalkeeper came out to collect a through ball and looked to handle outside the penalty box but nothing was given.
From a consequent throw-in, Alabi failed to make contact with the ball with the goal at his mercy, and given the timing of the opportunity, it was a key one for the visitors.
Three minutes into the second-half, Alabi had another opening after excellent persistence from Jordan Richardson left him in on goal, but his scuffed shot was an easy save for the Magpies’ stopper.
Newcastle put the final result beyond doubt on 54 minutes when their tricky right-sided midfielder hit a low drive from 25 yards that beat Bachmann and nestled in the bottom corner.
The Under-21s have been in a similar position on occasions so far this season, but they didn’t buckle and but for a close couple of offside decisions as Alabi tested the assistant referee’s vision, they could have troubled the Newcastle goal more.
The introduction of substitutes for both sides meant the game lost its flow, but Campbell forced a fine save from Bachmann on 76 minutes on one of the rare second-half occasions when City’s back-line was breached.
Stoke’s trialist left-sided midfielder should have scored moments later after a swift move – Kris Scott found Alabi in the left channel, and his first-time pass found him but he hesitated with just the ‘keeper to beat and in the end it was a comfortable save.
Newcastle seemed content with their lead in the game’s closing stages, and although the final whistle went on another defeat, City will be able to take some positives from this performance.
Stoke City: Bachmann; Rigg (Westley 63), Sanders, Keane (c), Taylor; Thomas (Barrington 74), Richardson, Trialist, Trialist; Scott; Alabi.