Wolves 4 (Roberts 12, 89 (p), Laban (OG) 59, Farmer 78) Stoke 2 (Lloyd 3, Lowe 32 (p))
Wolves under-18s produced a thrilling comeback inspired by a Tyler Roberts brace at the Sir Jack Haywood Training Ground to earn a 4-2 win against Stoke City.
Stoke took their chances well in the first-half despite most of the possession going in the way of Wolves. After opening the scoring within the first few minutes of the game they regained the lead through a Nathan Lowe penalty before the break.
Roberts would finish the game with a penalty of his own but not before second-half substitute Owen Farmer gave Wolves the lead with a powerful header directed on from a brilliantly curled-in cross by Marvin Kaleta.
The game took no time at all to get going and Wolves would soon regret not taking their chances to open the scores early on. A high pressing start from Steve Davis’ side resulted in the Stoke defence slicing a clearance inside the penalty area and left the ball falling into the feet of Nathan Fraser. The number nine controlled the ball and hit a shot on the half volley seeing it narrowly fizz over the crossbar.
Stoke went on to punish Wolves minutes later. A quick passage of play saw the ball drilled in from the left into the feet on an onrushing Louis Lloyd. In his stride, he slotted the ball past Jimmy Storer into the bottom right corner of the goal.
The first=half was not shy of chances with the majority coming in the home side’s favour. Their attacking three were electric with Josh Esen, Roberts and Fraser all linking up with great fluidity. Fraser had a shot saved one on one following a through ball by Roberts before Esen struck a half volley just shy of the right post after Fraser used his chest well to control a long ball down to him.
Fraser was hungry for a goal to add to his impressive tally this season but was left frustrated. The striker beat Jake Laban to a through ball behind the backline but was taken down by the onrushing goalkeeper who received a yellow for his troubles.
Wolves would soon level the scores with Roberts continuing his fine scoring form. Fraser linked up well with Harry Birtwistle on the right feeding the Singaporean down the wing. He cut inside before drilling a ball into the feet of an incoming Roberts who mirrored the first goal by tapping past Laban without breaking his stride.
Chances came flooding in for the old gold but Stoke would be the side to regain the lead. The supporters in attendance were left shocked when Roberts was taken down in the penalty area but no foul was given. Stoke went down the other end and to the crowd’s frustration, the away side won a penalty following a late challenge by Storer. Lloyd stepped up to the spot and blasted his shot down the middle sending Storer the wrong way.
Stoke mounted more control and would’ve increased the lead if it wasn’t for Kaleta. The wing-back recovered well to clear Ollie Chanllior’s shot, getting behind a beaten Storer and firing the ball away.
Half-time | Wolves 1-2 Stoke
The second-half had barely begun before the hosts mounted their next attack at the Stoke goal in what was another energetic start to the half. Once again Fraser lead the charge drilling an inviting cross low into the area but to his misfortunes, no one was there to convert.
Fraser’s misfortunes continued into the second half. First, he beat the keeper with a well-placed effort ghosting past Laban in goal however, the Stoke captain Josh Roney cleverly read the chance and cleared off the line. Fraser would then try his luck with his head but saw his header narrowly glance wide of the goal.
Once again it was Wolves’ turn to clear the ball off the line. This time Caden Voice recovered well to stop the visitors increasing their lead and cleared the ball off the near post after Stoke’s attack had knocked the ball around Storer.
It wasn’t pretty but Wolves regained their lead through an Aaron Keto-Diyawa corner. Laban was left in two minds as the full-back’s in-swinging cross curled towards him and without time to think misjudged the cross. He punched the ball into his own net with help from Fraser who tussled with the keeper.
From there Wolves continued their command over the game. Second-half substitutes Mackenzie Bradbury and Fin Ashworth made a massive impact off the bench controlling the midfield with calm composure, but it would be Owen Farmer who would change the scores after coming on from the sideline.
Marvin Kaleta tried his luck higher up the pitch and bombarded his way down the right-wing. Effortlessly, he picked out Farmer in the area who leapt higher than the Stoke defence and plucked the ball out of the sky nodding the ball past Laban and giving Wolves the lead for the first time in the match.
Wolves had the chance to extend their lead a plethora of times first through Farmer and then through Roberts who saw a shot tipped over from an arrowed shot outside the area. But it would be the number eleven’s penalty which would seal all three points for Davis’ men.
After blitzing his way into the area from the left, Roberts teased a shot before he cut inside and got taken down by a late challenge. The winger stepped up to take the penalty and slotted his shot into the bottom right corner completing a well-earned comeback.
Full-time | Wolves 2-4 Stoke
Following his side’s comeback in the second-half, head coach Davis was quick to praise his players’ determination following their formation change. He said: “I thought it was a well-earned win. We found it tough in the first half, they had the better of the ball. Our shape wasn’t quite right but we persevered with it and then swapped it at halftime, we felt the 4-2-3-1 would be better against their system.
“The momentum of the game then changed, it swung towards us and I thought we had a terrific second-half and we were better in both boxes. I spoke about defending better for their penalty and we switched off for their second goal with the long pass and then up the other end, we had numerous amounts of chances which we weren’t taking.
“The second-half was more about getting more quality in the final third and getting more players in the box and defending better. Out of position, I thought we shadowed Stoke a lot without making an impact on the ball.”
On the second-half changes
“All the four midfield players are under-15 and one’s under-16 so to play in the midfield against a big, strong Stoke side is a big ask but I thought they were excellent. I thought Fin [Ashworth] when he came on got front-facing and played some good passes and kept the ball moving.
“Mackenzie [Bradbury] as well came across and did a fantastic job having played 40 minutes for the under 16s. Fraser [Harper] had his first start, I thought he did okay and there were a lot of really good things in his game as well so he can build on that.
“Mason [Rees] we’re trying to protect, he's played a lot of games as an under-16 this season so we felt he was starting to fatigue and we just need to manage his time a little bit better. I’m delighted with all four of them, they’ve come in and done extremely well, they’ve not let us down. The future for them if they continue development and have these experiences, they’re going to be good players for the club.”
On his team’s improvements
“The first-half of the season we were strong with the group we had, we had a lot of the second years playing and we looked capable of beating anyone with that group, rightly so they all moved up so that changes the dynamic of the team a little bit.
“The team become younger and in the second half of the season, we’ve played a lot of the schoolboys, a lot of the under-15s. We’ve given time to a lot of the players who will be scholars next season and they’re going to be a big part of the under-18s.
“The squad is getting very young but they haven’t let us down and we still have been competitive. We haven’t won every game, we’ve drawn a lot of games but the last couple of games we’ve done really well in and manged to get some points as we did today. The important thing is giving these lads an opportunity and seeing how they develop and seeing how they do.”
Wolves host Sunderland on Tuesday afternoon as they conclude their U18 Premier League North campaign. Having faced them in the first game of the season, Davis commented on what he expects from the game.
“Another home game and a long journey for them,” Davis said. “We played Sunderland in the first game of the season and got that out the way because it’s a fair trip. They’ve done a lot better this year, they’ve been one of the surprises. They’ve got a lot of players who move on as they’re at a high level. I’ve been impressed with Sunderland this year, they’ve competed very well in the league and beaten a lot of teams.
“Another tough game, Stoke gave us a tough first half today but we were able to wear them down. So hopefully Tuesday there will be another similar sort of challenge for us and we want to finish this season on a good note we want to perform well and if we win the game even better.”
10/05 Sunderland (H)
Wolves | Storer, Birtwistle, Kaleta, Kandola, Voice, Keto-Diyawa, Harper (Bradbury 70), Rees (Ashworth 45), Fraser (Farmer 70), Esen, Roberts.
Unused subs: Clarke, Carson.
Stoke | Laban, Curl, Bickerton, Singh, Griffin (Laird 70), Roney, Smith, Challinor, Lowe, Lloyd (Lusakenno 70), Ireland.
Unused subs: Robson, Sidibe, Watson.
By Tom Alston