KARIM ROSSI STEPPED off the bench and netted in the final minute of time to give Stoke City’s Under 21s a hard-fought 2-1 win at Nantwich Town.
The friendly had looked to be heading for a stalemate with neither side looking overly threatening in the final third at the Weaver Stadium.
However, after Dabbers winger Sean Cooke had equalised City’s on-trial forward’s opener 15 minutes from the end, it was Swiss substitute Rossi who pounced on a Jonny Brain mistake to settle the match.
Stoke opted for a familiar line-up, with George Rigg continuing in central midfield alongside Jordan Richardson and Lucas Dawson. Nantwich were forced into a late change when Lewis Short pulled up in the warm-up, giving JJ Bailey an unexpected start.
Neither side was able to maintain an attacking threat in the early stages, but it was Stoke who fashioned the first real chance on 15 minutes. Dawson’s corner was met by the on-trial forward, but his flick-on flew wide.
The home side almost broke the deadlock seven minutes later when substitute Will Jones was played through by Mark Beesley, but a poor touch allowed Dan Bachmann to smother the shot.
Three minutes later, Nantwich spurned another opportunity. This time Cooke found the unmarked Beesley six yards out, but his header was straight at the Potters ‘keeper.
Stoke got themselves back into the game, but struggled to make any inroads in attack as Nantwich’s lofty central defenders snuffed out any threat.
Shortly after the break, Ben Heneghan’s cross from deep found the trialist again but his header lacked any conviction and meant an easy collection for Brain.
Much in the same way as the first period, each side was frustrating the other and both managers made changes to try and grasp the initiative.
Finally, on 75 minutes, City made the breakthrough – a clearance from the back ricocheted into the path of the Potters’ on-trial front man, and his shot squirmed under the ‘keeper into the net.
Their lead didn’t last long, though. Four minutes after the restart, Cooke did well to find Beesley in the left channel, before firing the return ball past Bachmann from 18 yards.
Nantwich nearly nipped in front just moments after when Casper Hughes played in the onrushing Rodney McDonald, only for City’s Austrian goalkeeper to this time keep the shot out.
The hosts were clearly buoyed by their equaliser and continued to press, but it Stoke who clinched the winner in the last minute of normal time – Dawson’s 25-yard drive was spilled by Brain, with Rossi on hand to steer the ball into the empty net.
The Dabbers pushed forward in numbers after the restart, but time was against them and Rossi’s late strike proved the winner.
Stoke City: Bachmann; Glasgow, Heneghan, Keane, Clarkson; Musungu (Hall 68), Rigg, Dawson, Richardson (Rossi 84), Thomas; Trialist. Subs not used: Eve, Campbell, Parry, Westley, Scott
NantwichTown: Brain; Lowe (Moss 71), M Bailey, JJ Bailey, McDonald; Cooke, McLachlan (Flynn 64), Hughes, Foster (Maguire 55); Wilson (Jones 21), Beesley.