Norwich City’s Under-23s were left frustrated on Monday night, as a strong Stoke City side came from behind to beat them 2-1.
Josh Martin was the most recognizable face in a side that featured three players with first-team experience, Reece McAlear and Andrew Omobamidele also making the starting eleven. Sebastian Soto also made an appearance for the Yellows, pairing with Tom Dickson-Peters up front.
After an attritional opening 12 minutes, it was the young Canaries who took the lead, Dickson-Peters rolling home after Martin had set Tony Springett racing in behind, the young winger losing control of the ball but seeing it fall kindly for the City number 10. There was a hint of offside but the goal stood, despite protestations from the Stoke players.
Eight minutes later Martin felt he should’ve had a penalty. More fine work from Springett ended with a fine pass coolly left by Soto to run into Martin’s path, and the 19-year-old was left beating the turf after a tackle from behind won the ball but upended the Norwich man.
Soon afterwards the Potters got an equaliser against the run of play. After one in a series of corners was headed away Stoke starlet Tom Sparrow hit a volley from the edge of the box, a deflection leaving Jon McCracken with no chance.
The turnaround looked like it was complete in first-half stoppage time, when Martin made a clumsy tackle in the box and the referee pointed to the spot, despite claims from the Norwich bench that “the game’s gone.” Up stepped Potters forward Christian Norton, but McCracken came up with the goods, diving to his left to pluck the ball out of the air, keeping the scores level and making his second penalty save of the season.
Soon after the break, however, and all that hard work was undone by an individual error. Centre-back Jon Tomkinson didn’t put enough on his pass back to McCracken and the ‘keeper was forced to concede a penalty when rounded. Stoke captain Ethon Varion stepped up to calmly roll the spot kick down the middle.
There were positives to take in the second half, and the impressive cameo of newly signed midfielder Regan Riley will have pleased City fans, but Soto’s limped exit in the 59th minute was worrying given the high hopes many have for him.
Stoke competently saw out the game and the only real sight of goal for the Canaries was Matthew Dennis’ looped header in the 90th minute, although Ethen Vaughan’s cross was slightly behind the former Arsenal man.
A disappointing loss but David Wright’s men have little time to dust themselves down, as they head to runaway league leaders Leeds on Friday night, hoping to bring an end to a winless run that has now stretched to seven games.