Stoke City 3 (Norton 25, 38, Forrester 79) Wolves 1 (Hesketh 3)
Wolves under-23 are still looking for their first win of 2021 having fallen to defeat on the road at Stoke City on Sunday afternoon, following a first-half brace from Christian Norton.
It was a lightning quick start by Wolves who took the lead with the first real attack of the game. Nigel Lonwijk played Theo Corbeanu into space down the right wing and with players arriving into the Stoke penalty area, the Canadian’s cross was found at the edge of the penalty area by Owen Hesketh, who struck a half-volley low into the bottom left corner of the net.
The Potters attempted to respond immediately, and although Wolves were able to clear several crosses into the box away, the ball eventually found its way to Norton on the right, whose low shot was parried behind the upright by the gold and black’s goalkeeper Andreas Sondergaard.
Stoke came close to an equaliser with 15 minutes on the clock, as a corner was aimed towards the head of lofty defender Connor Taylor, but despite the ball being headed against the crossbar, Wolves were awarded a free-kick for a foul on Sondergaard.
The host’s pressure finally told ten minutes later as Wolves failed to clear the danger from a quick Stoke counter-attack and the ball sat up nicely to Norton on the edge of the penalty area, who curled a right-footed effort inside the far post.
Wolves pushed to regain their advantage throughout the first half, and it was captain Luke Cundle – fresh off signing a new contract with the club – who came closest to testing Stoke keeper Adam Davies but he was unable to guide his headed effort on target.
However, it was Stoke who took the lead before half-time as Norton was played into space on the right side of Wolves’ penalty area, and having beat Sondergaard with his shot, Hugo Bueno tried to clear the ball from under the crossbar, but the assistant referee adjudged the ball to have already crossed the goalline.
Wolves stepped up their intensity in the second period, and although Cundle once again came close to scoring for Wolves when his effort was cleared off the line, it was the assistant referee’s flag which denied the old gold an equaliser, as Conor Carty had strayed offside before latching onto Corbeanu’s cross and guiding the ball past Davies.
The visitors were denied by another block inside the Stoke penalty area, as the ball dropped to the feet of Lonwijk inside the box following a Cundle free-kick, before substitute Chem Campbell rattled the base of the post after a driving run through the Stoke defence.
In spite of Wolves’ attacking threat, Stoke added a third through William Forrester, who snuck in at the back to turn the ball home from a matter of yards after a corner had been flicked towards the far post by Taylor, to see the three points remain in the Potteries.
James Collins’ under-23s will be aiming to get revenge on local rivals Aston Villa in just under two weeks’ time after the Villans won the reverse tie at Aggborough earlier this season.
12/02 Aston Villa (A)
21/02 Crystal Palace (H)
26/02 Fulham (A)
05/03 Leeds United (H)
14/03 Sunderland (H)
*indicates first-team opposition
Stoke: Davies, Jones, Macari, Forrester, Coates, Taylor, Malone, Sparrow, Varian (James-Taylor 81), Trialist (Adebambo 70), Norton.
Unused subs: Hemfrey, Sy.
Wolves: Sondergaard, Matheson (Scott 78), Lonwijk, Estrada, Bueno, Hong Wan (Campbell 64), Cundle, Hesketh, Corbeanu, Carty, Samuels.
Unused subs: Young, Nya, Mayounga.