JAMES ALABI’S well placed finish earned Stoke City’s Under-21s side a valuable point away at Manchester United …but on another night they could have won all three.
Striker Alabi netted his third goal in as many games early on to help the Under-21s to their fourth point of the season, whilst he also saw another ambitious long range effort strike the crossbar as the Potters enjoyed the lion’s share of the chances.
Ex-Crewe midfielder Nick Powell impressed for the opposition and followed up his goal for the Red Devils’ first team against Wigan Athletic with their equaliser just before the break.
Karim Rossi, Andy Musungu and Jordan Richardson also responded with chances of their own but in the end the scores remained level.
First team professionals Wilson Palacios, Maurice Edu, Ryan Shotton and Jamie Ness all participated in the game at Altrincham’s Moss Lane, with Director of Football John Rudge, Assistant Manager Dave Kemp and a clutch of first team coaches all casting a keen eye on proceedings.
They would have been impressed with the start that Dave Kevan’s side made, taking the game to the home team from the outset and deservedly breaking the deadlock after just five minutes.
Michele Fornasier’s pass inside his own half was quickly intercepted by Ness with the loose ball falling into space for Alabi to run out onto.
The former Celtic striker advanced at goal to place a neat strike comfortably past United keeper Sam Johnstone from 20 yards out.
Alabi and his striking partner Rossi were proving to be a handful for their opposition’s defence, and it was the latter who then attempted to get in on the scoring act with two further attempts for Stoke.
His first on 24 minutes saw him hold off his marker to fire a shot at Johnstone from 25 yards, whilst a glancing header from a Palacios free kick five minutes later struck the United keeper in the face to bounce away from goal.
Stoke continued to press forward on what was a cold Bonfire Night in Greater Manchester, and with a background of screeching fireworks Alabi unleashed a rocket himself on 33 minutes that crashed against the crossbar.
Johnstone may have even got fingertips to the long range effort to push it onto the woodwork, in what would have been a goal worthy to light up any game.
Another chance was created from a counter attack shortly afterwards when Rossi dispossessed Ryan Tunnicliffe, but his pass out to wide for Alabi was too weak for the striker to run onto and his improvised pop shot was comfortably gathered by Johnstone.
It looks liked that would be it for the first half but a moment of magic from the influential Powell pulled the hosts level just before the half-time whistle blew.
A fantastic run saw him weave inside Edu and Jordan Keane before prodding the ball high into the roof of the net from close range.
If anyone was likely to come up with a touch of quality for Manchester United it was him, although the equaliser was somewhat undeserved after a comfortable looking first half for the Potters.
It was a quiet start after the break but following a few feisty challenges there was certainly an edge to the final quarter of the game.
Musungu may have put City back into the lead at the midway point but when a long throw into the back post area saw the nippy winger edge inside right back Marnick Vermijl, he could only poke a shot the wrong side of the post.
The home side, overseen by coach Warren Joyce, then finally came into the game and a neat passing move with Tunnicliffe at the heart of it saw Vermijl thwarted by Dale Eve at the penalty spot.
Powell then came forward on another run whilst looking for his second of the evening but on this occasion he went for a long range strike which ended up skewing off several yards wide of the post.
Tunnicliffe then seeked out Larnell Cole on the right wing but his shot-cum-cross was only diverted tamely at Eve by Adnan Januzaj.
After soaking up the pressure, City then came back on the offensive and substitute Jordan Richardson got on the end of Rossi’s lay off to fire a strike just wide of the post from the edge of the area.
The Potters peppered United’s goal in the final few minutes with a succession of corners and free kicks but the hosts held out and the spoils were shared.
Stoke now go into a break in the league with four points following the draw and travel to Prenton Park to take on Tranmere Rovers in the Central League Cup next Monday.
Manchester United: Johnstone; Vermijl, Wootton, Fornasier, McGinty; Cole, Thorpe, Tunnicliffe, Powell, Januzaj; Macheda. Subs (Not Used): Veseli, Sutherland, Lawrence, James, Ekangamene.
Stoke City: Eve; Glasgow, Heneghan, Keane, Shotton (Clarkson 74); Edu (Dawson 72), Palacios (Richardson 63), Ness, Musungu; Alabi, Rossi. Subs (Not Used): Scott, Parry.