STOKE CITY’S Development Squad were given another reminder of the quality they are up against this season at Under-21 level when they slipped to a 7-2 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur.
The hosts were on top throughout and ruthless in front of goal as Ryan Mason grabbed a hat-trick amidst strikes from Cristian Ceballos, Jonathan Obika, Nathan Byrne and Dean Parrett.
City had actually taken the lead early on through Jordan Keane, and although Adam Thomas also netted in a first-half that contained seven of the game’s nine goals, they proved no more than consolations in the end.
Ryan O’Reilly and Jack Nardiello were promoted from the Under-18s after both scoring in their Saturday win over Spurs, which meant Michael Clarkson moved from full-back to central midfield and partnered Lucas Dawson and Jordan Richardson.
They couldn’t have got off to a better start, either – Dawson’s deep corner found an unmarked Keane at the back-post, who displayed fine composure to chest the ball down and fire home.
Spurs soon got into their stride, and on a pristine pitch that was doused with plenty of water pre kick-off, they began to showcase a slick passing game that would have encouraged on-looking coach and club icon Les Ferdinand.
They drew level only four minutes later when Yago Falque chipped a cross to the back post which Mason met with a header that deflected past Dale Eve and into the net.
Three minutes on, they edged ahead in controversial fashion – Ceballos looked to lunge on Dawson in winning possession, but the referee overlooked City’s appeals for a free-kick and the tricky winger played a one-two with Tom Carroll before finishing calmly.
Only moments later it was 3-1 when Eve was slow to a loose ball and his clearance was charged down by Obika, who chased down his own block and made space for a shot at goal that he simply couldn’t miss.
City were shell-shocked after such a rapid reversal of fortunes, and they fell deeper into trouble on 23 minutes when Byrne curled in from 20 yards after being picked out by Mason.
Struggling to contain a Spurs team who got forward in numbers at every available opportunity, Stoke had little hold of possession but Keane went close when his header was cleared off the line.
When they did get in the final third, they were certainly threatening and they pulled a goal back on 39 minutes – Dawson picked out Clarkson on the left with a floated pass, and his low cross eventually found its way to Thomas at the back-post, who made no mistake.
If that provided a small morale boost for the youngsters, it was quickly diminished when Spurs scored their fifth moments before half-time through an excellent Mason volley.
After the break, Stoke looked sharper and it was a more even contest until Spurs moved further ahead on 62 minutes when Parrett cleverly steered in Falque’s square cross.
Both teams then tested the framework of each goal – firstly Ceballos’ effort rebounded off the inside of the post before Jordan Richardson rattled the crossbar up the other end after somehow shrugging off the challenges of four defenders.
Spurs introduced a trio of fresh faces and got their seventh on 77 minutes from the penalty spot – O’Reilly felled full-back Adam Smith, and Mason stepped up to complete his hat-trick.
Potters substitute Kris Scott had a shot tipped round the post by Jordan Archer, but Spurs closed out the match at a canter and left City pointless from their opening four matches.
Coach Dave Kevan said after the match: “There’s no hiding place for them in these games. I feel a bit sorry for the boys, but they shouldn’t feel sorry for themselves as they did at times today.
“They need to learn to be more aggressive with the opposition – they looked a little in awe, if anything. They obviously need to keep the ball a bit better too.
“We have to stay strong, stay together and try and take as much we can from these games.”
Stoke City: Eve; Rigg, Parry, Keane, O’Reilly; Thomas, Richardson, Dawson (Scott 72), Clarkson, Nardiello (Hall 72); Trialist (Rossi 82). Subs not used: Gledhill, Glasgow.
Tottenham Hotspur: Archer; Smith, Veljkovic (Stewart 68), Hall, Byrne; Falque, Mason, Parrett, Carroll (Munns 68), Ceballos; Obika (Ekong 68). Subs not used: Vigouroux.