BREK SHEA was handed the opportunity to build up his match fitness with an appearance in Stoke City's Under-21 side when they faced Manchester City at Nantwich Town's Weaver Stadium on Monday evening.
The American international, who has been restricted to two substitute appearances since his move to the Britannia Stadium in January as he recovers from foot surgery, played for 81 minutes as the Potters slipped to a 2-1 defeat in the Under-21 fixture.
Shea lined up alongside former Rangers midfielder Jamie Ness, while their opponents had £15 million midfielder Jack Rodwell and defender Dedryck Boyata in their side as they came from behind to take the three points.
Stoke took an early lead courtesy of a great finish by George Rigg before Denis Suarez levelled in the first-half, and the City winger won the match on the hour mark to make sure his side secured a hard-earned victory.
Rodwell had the first chance of the match, but he fired wide from a tight angle before the Potters took the lead soon after with their first shot of the match.
Good build up play worked the ball out to Reece Hands on the right wing whose cross was chested down by John Marsden for Rigg on the edge of the box. The right-back struck the ball first-time on the half-volley and it curled past the goalkeeper and into the bottom left corner of the net to give his side the lead just twelve minutes in.
A minute later, Marsden again chested a cross down, this time for Hands whose volley went wide. Marcos Lopes' cross then found Seko Forfana in the box and his shot was hooked off the line by Rigg as the visitors pressed for an equaliser.
Daniel Bachmann was called into action to deny Lopes and the 'keeper was also on hand to keep out Albert Rusnak's shot following a clever short corner routine.
The visitors' equaliser came 27 minutes in when Lopes turned his man and played a great ball through for Suarez, who poked the ball past Bachmann when one-on-one.
Rodwell then fired a low free-kick wide before Shea tried an audacious lob following Adam Thomas' flick on, but the winger's attempt went over the bar.
The visitors had a great chance to take the lead just before halftime, in fact three great chances. Lopes fed Rusnak whose shot was saved by Bachmann with just the Stoke number one to beat, the ball then came back out to Suarez whose shot was blocked on the line by the impressive Rigg and Rodwell's follow up was also blocked, this time by Potters captain Jordan Keane.
Bachmann kept out Fofana's powerful header after the restart but he just couldn't do enough to deny the visitors what would prove to be the winner on the hour mark. Lopes burst down the right wing and played the ball inside to Rodwell whose shot was kept out by the Stoke 'keeper, only for Suarez to follow it up and find the back of the net from a tight angle to make it 2-1.
Lucas Dawson's corner fell to Keane at the back-post as Stoke searched for a quick equaliser, but his shot was pushed out for another Dawson corner by the 'keeper from which Immanuel Parry headed another opportunity over the bar.
Jordan Richardson tried his luck with a free-kick that went around the wall, but was right at Ian Lawlor in the Manchester goal. Rusnak then fired wide with a low drive before Bachmann saved a Suarez shot.
Lopes headed inches wide from a deep corner late on and the visitors held on to record a 2-1 victory, their first in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League since they last played Stoke.
Dave Kevan's side face Crystal Palace at home in their final game of the season, a game that the young Potters will be aiming to win to end the season on a high.
Stoke City: Bachmann; Rigg, Parry, Dawson, Keane (c); Thomas, Hands, Ness (Barrington, 81), Richardson, Shea (Hall, 81); Marsden
Man City: Lawlor; Wabara, Boyata, Plummer, Leigh; Rusnak, Fofana, Huws (c), Rodwell (Ntcham, 63), Suarez; Lopes