Stoke City succumbed to their second successive defeat in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League after a 1-0 loss against Southampton at Nantwich Town on Friday.
Jake Flannigan grabbed the game’s only goal in the 53rd minute, a goal of genuine quality, not in keeping in what was a tight and scrappy affair in truth.
There was a place in the Stoke line up for winger Matthew Etherington who is stepping up his recovery from a back injury; the Saturday evening game at Hull City with the first team coming too soon it was decided.
And it was Etherington who had the first meaningful chance of the game. Ex-Rangers midfielder Jamie Ness won the ball well in the middle of the pitch and threaded a perfectly weighted ball through to the ex-West Ham man, who could only drill wide from 18 yards.
Defender Ryan O’Reilly was next to trouble the Saints goal. His shot flashed through a body of players in the box but was well held by ‘keeper Will Britt.
The Hampshire side responded and came close to breaking the deadlock when Omar Rose’s free kick just evaded City ‘keeper Dale Eve’s post.
Ten minutes before half time and The Potters had their best chance of the half courtesy of Charlie Ward. Etherington was again involved, his strong run and cross found Ward on the edge of the box. He composed himself and fired just over with Britt at full stretch.
Saints responded just after half time by breaking the deadlock.
Rose, who was a menace to the City defence all afternoon, broke into the box and cut the ball back to Flannigan.
The midfielder took one touch to open his body and stroked the ball into the corner of the net with Eve helpless.
City rallied after the goal and Ness saw his shot from the edge of the box flash wide of the right hand post.
Tricky winger Adam Thomas then drilled in a low cross which Britt spilt but substitute Karim Rossi’s follow up was blocked.
The visitors also had a chance to seal the victory late on when Jordan Turnbull’s storming run from his own area nearly saw the ball inadvertently put into his own net by Ben Heneghan but his header was clawed away by Eve and Saints held on to record their fourth win in their last six games.
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