Wolves 1 (Cundle, 60’) Stoke City 3 (Porter, 44’, Toure, 45’, O’Driscoll-Varian, 55’)
By Ryan Plant
Wolves under-18s were defeated 3-1 by Stoke City in the Premier League Under-18 North but can take pride in an excellent second-half showing.
Goals from captain Adam Porter, Abdoulaye Toure and Ethon O’Driscoll-Varian put the visitors 3-0 ahead after an hour, but, after Luke Cundle’s consolation goal on the hour, Darren Ryan’s side will feel unlucky to have not closed the deficit further.
Wolves started the strongest of the two sides. Inside the opening quarter of an hour, both Cundle and wing-back Lewis Richards saw crosses well cleared by Stoke, with strikers Conor Carty and Dongda He ready to pounce.
When home goalkeeper Jamie Pardington acrobatically saved from Mohamed Sankoh, who broke past the Wolves defence, the game began to swing in Stoke’s favour approaching half-time.
It was midfielder Porter who opened the scoring after reacting first to a loose ball in Wolves’ six-yard box.
Moments later, Toure doubled his side’s lead with a strike from the edge of the penalty area into the top-left corner of Pardington’s goal.
Stoke continued in the ascendancy in the second half and extended their lead further when O’Driscoll-Varian tapped home a rebound from an excellent Pardington save.
Wolves never gave in and they were rewarded when Cundle intercepted a stray pass from goalkeeper Nathan Broome to score.
Ryan’s side were buoyed by their goal, and substitute forward Theo Corbeanu threatened to reduce the deficit further.
He saw a finish from inside the six-yard box disallowed after the ball was adjudged to have gone out of play as Richards shaped to cross, and then sent an acrobatic volley just over the crossbar, with Broome beaten.
Stoke were able to hold on for the win, after substitute defender Mohamed Akandji was introduced during a change to a more-defensive setup.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH:
Cundle’s goal was a just reward for his efforts in Wolves’ midfield, alongside Pascal Estrada, Todd Parker and substitute Chem Campbell. In difficult, windy conditions, he was comfortable in possession and kept the ball moving whenever possible, with wing-backs Callum Thompson and Richards always readily available on the overlap.
Manager Darren Ryan was keen to draw on the positives of his side’s display, despite the scoreline. He said: “We are very good at getting to the final third, with lots of incisive passes and good movement, but our work when we get there is one of our main points for development.
“I have been really pleased with the players since we came back from Christmas. The performances, on the whole, have been good.
“I think a lot of today’s game was very even. But give credit to Stoke, they worked very hard, as we expected.”
Wolves will next be in action for a West Midlands derby away to West Bromwich Albion, as the under-18s look for their first league victory in 2019.
12/03 – West Brom (A)
23/03 – Everton (H)
30/03 – Manchester United (H)
06/04 – Liverpool (A)
09/04 – Manchester City (H)
Wolves (3-5-2): Pardington; Crabtree, Taylor, Trialist; Thompson (Abbey, 87’), Parker (Campbell, 45’), Estrada, Cundle, Richards; He (Corbeanu, 59’), Carty
Unused subs: Smith, Joseph
Stoke (4-4-2): Broome; Coates, Nash, Malone, Corrigan; Murphy, Porter, Jarrett, Toure (Malron, 64’); Sankoh (Akanadji, 85’), O’Driscoll-Varian
Unused subs: Cooper, Sparrow, Sanali