A QUICK-FIRE second-half double turned the game around for Stoke City’s Under-18s as they came from behind to beat Aston Villa 2-1 at Clayton Wood Training Ground.
Derice Richards and Ryan O’Reilly scored within two minutes of each other after Jordan Graham had fired the visitors into a half-time lead.
It was a case of déjà vu for City’s youngsters after they beat Manchester United last weekend with the same score-line and after losing a goal early on.
The never-say-die attitude would have impressed coach John Perkins, who opted for a diamond midfield for the match with Richards supporting the two forwards and Kieran Monlouis operating in front of the back four.
Stoke had a spring in their step from the beginning, and Alabi had the first chance of the match on the quarter hour when he powered past two defenders but slid his shot wide.
The hosts looked sharp and confident, and Jake Cook went close on 25 minutes when he met Nardiello’s cross first time but unfortunately missed the target.
Villa found their feet as the half wore on, and skilful striker Daniel Crowley had a decent effort from range that deflected behind for a corner.
They continued to grow in stature, and took the lead ten minutes before half-time - Umit Eminoglu picked the ball up in space and threaded a pass through to Graham, who beat the offside trap and finished spectacularly into the top corner.
Graham was causing problems for the Potters’ defence, and has another chance on 44 minutes but his shot didn’t trouble Dale Eve after a brave block from Sam Coulson.
Stoke regrouped after the break and could have scored when Monlouis found Nardiello on the left who squared to Ryan Shields, but his effort lacked control and cleared the bar.
It wouldn’t matter, though, as two goals in two minutes suddenly gave Stoke the lead.
Firstly it was Richards who pounced in the six-yard box after Shields’ deflected header had looped over the goalkeeper before bouncing back off the crossbar.
The Potters then won a corner quickly after the restart which found Nardiello at the back post. His trickery earned him space to find a cross, and O’Reilly timed his run to perfection and powered a header home.
Villa were stunned and could have gone further behind when the influential Shields played in Richards, but the angle was too acute and his shot was cleared.
Shields was once again the creator on 72 minutes when he jinxed past two defenders before finding Nardiello, but the forward’s shot went over.
Villa were clearly furious with the way they lost the lead, and rallied but Stoke’s defence was organised and well-marshalled by the vocal Eve between the sticks.
With five minutes left on the clock, Crowley cut inside from the left and hit a well-stuck shot that Eve did well to tip over the bar and out of trouble.
From the corner, a panicked City defence failed to clear and a shot was drilled at the goal but a combination of Eve and a defender on the line kept it out.
Stoke were clearly delighted when the final whistle eventually went as they made it two wins out of two for the season so far.
Stoke City: Eve; Westley, Coulson, O’Reilly, Strong; Monlouis; Shields, Cook; Richards; Alabi (Hopkinson 79), Nardiello. Subs not used: Gledhill, Barrington, Pilkington, Hulme.
Aston Villa: Watkins; Williams, Bateman, Stevenson, Calder (Wildin 74); O’Brien (T Strain 67), Melvin, Ward, Graham; Eminoglu (Nelson 78), Crowley. Subs not used: Hill, Hepburn-Murphy.