Under-23 report | Wolves 2-0 Stoke

Wolves 2 (Cundle 17, 39) Stoke City 0

Wolves under-23s will return to Premier League 2 Division 1 following a two-year absence after a thrilling victory over Stoke City in the Division 2 play-off final at an electric Molineux.

A brace from Luke Cundle was enough to see Wolves back into the top-flight of youth football as the midfielder produced two stunning finishes to see off the Potters and ensure James Collins’ side would be playing among the best development sides in the country for the 2022/23 season.

In the early stages at Molineux, the boys in gold and black were playing with a stylish fluidity which the under-23s have become accustomed to in recent months, with slick one-touch passing unlocking the Stoke defence.

Within the opening 10 minutes, the hosts worked two clever opportunities to open the scoring through the ever-industrious Hugo Bueno. The Spanish wing-back was twice played into acres of space down the left and his first cross to the far post fell to opposite full-back Dexter Lembikisa, who could only fire wide.

Moments later, Bueno was at it again, getting the better of Stoke captain Thomas Sparrow and delivering another tantalising ball into the box which Lee Harkin headed straight at Tommy Simkin who was well positioned on his line.

The pressure from the hosts paid on 17 minutes when Cundle opened the scoring. Chem Campbell and Taylor Perry linked well down the left to break between the Stoke defence and the latter aimed a low ball into the box which fell to the feet of the onrushing midfielder who met the ball emphatically from 10 yards out and gave Simkin no chance.

Despite falling behind, Stoke weren’t going to give up lightly and gave Matija Sakic work to do when William Goodwin looped a header towards goal but the Wolves keeper got good hands to the ball, before Patrick Jarrett’s long-range shot was also dealt with by the Montenegrin international.

But Wolves were still well on top, as both Bueno and Justin Hubner went close to extending Wolves’ lead, with the Dutch defender pulling an impressive save from Simkin after lurking at the far post and sending the ball towards goal, but the Stoke stopper palmed his effort over the crossbar.

The gap was widened less than 10 minutes before the break as, once again, the Bueno/Cundle partnership showed its superiority. The Spaniard showed his quick feet down the left to leave Sparrow chasing shadows and his cross to the edge of the box was hammered home first time by the number seven for his second of the game.

Half-time | Wolves 2 Stoke 0

With a two-goal lead to take into the second period, Wolves were very much in control as the final 45 minutes of the season commenced, with Cundle, Joe Hodge and Taylor Perry dictating play in the centre of the park.

Although the hosts were seeing much of the ball, Stoke were showing glimpses of a recovery, and could have found the net when Emre Tezgel – who netted twice when the sides met last month – was picked out in space on the edge of the box, before firing wide.

The second-half was one of few incidents as Wolves were happy to contain Stoke’s attacks while trying to catch the Potters on the break, as Cundle and Bueno continued to be the thorns in the side of those in red and white.

When Wolves did cut through Stoke, their efforts fell short in the final third. Cundle was played into space on the left by Campbell, but instead of looking for his hat-trick, he attempted to set up Perry, but he was unable to find his footing. Moments later, Bueno set the ball back for Perry, but the midfielder’s low drive was into the body of Simkin. The keeper then denied Campbell when he elected to take a shot at goal despite Cundle being unmarked in the box to his right.

With the game entering the final 10 minutes, Wolves were piling the pressure on the visitors as the crowd were calling for a third, and Cundle as denied another by the feet of Simkin when he was played in on goal by Hodge who had driven past several in Stoke colours.

It took an outstanding save from Simkin to keep the score to two as the game entered six minutes of added time, with Perry twisting and turning the Stoke defence before unleashing a powerful effort which the keeper was able to tip over the crossbar.

But the missed chances mattered not, as a long ball into the Wolves penalty area was gathered by Sarkic and the final whistle blew on an extraordinary second half to the season for Collins’ boys.

Full-time | Wolves 2 Stoke 0


The under-23’s season is now in the bag, and preparations will begin for the 2022/23 season as James Collins’ side begin life in the top tier of youth football.


Wolves | Sarkic, Lembikisa (Birtwistle 90), Bueno, Tipton, Marques, Hubner, Cundle, Hodge, Harkin (Griffiths 72), Perry, Campbell (Hesketh 86).

Unused subs | Kandola, Shabani.

Stoke | Simkin, Sparrow, Jones, Malone, Okagbue, Forrester, Wright-Phillips, Griffiths, Tezgel, Jarrett (Sy 80), Goodwin (James-Taylor 61)

Unused subs | Hemfrey, Curl, Norton.