Stoke City U21s 1-3 Saints U21s
Tadanari Lee and Jonathan Forte were both on the scoresheet in a 3-1 win for the Under-21s at Stoke on Saturday.
The duo returned to action for Saints with Lee recovering from injury, and Forte making his first appearance since his loan spell at Crawley Town ended.
Their involvement was one of many plus points for Under-21s coach Martin Hunter, whose young side recorded another impressive away performance capped off with a win over a side that beat them earlier in the campaign.
The contest was played at Nantwich Town’s ground in the North West, on a pitch which had suffered from frost overnight, further adding to the challenge of playing against a direct and physical home side.
A difficult opening to the game was ended when 21s top scorer Sam HOSKINS capitalised on a mistake to put Saints in front.
That sparked some devastating attacking play from the visitors with the front three of Hoskins, Lee and Forte all moving fluidly inside the hosts’ half.
It got better for the Hunter’s side when Tadanari LEE was brought down inside the area, and the Japanese frontman dusted himself down to convert the spot-kick with assurance.
The advantage was cut in half before the half time break when a cross was headed home past the returning Cody Cropper in the Saints goal who had had little else to do in his first game back from injury.
After the interval, Saints reasserted their composed stance on the contest, keeping Stoke at bay in defence before restoring their two goal advantage.
Captain Ben Reeves, who was influential throughout, showed great skill to set up FORTE for a close range finish as the returning striker celebrated a goal as he renewed acquaintances with his Saints teammates.
The team grew as the game went on to fully deserve their win which maintains their fine form away from home, with just one defeat on the road as they prepare to face two big home games against Manchester United and Newcastle to round off their fixtures.
“I’m particularly pleased with our away form,” Martin Hunter highlighted after the game.
“We have high hopes of finishing in the top three of our group and our attitude to the games has been good. This is a valuable three points for us, and it shows that we’re still growing as the season goes on.
“Our front three players got a goal each which was good to see, and defensively we were composed particularly in the second half.
“It was a difficult game to play in, but they coped well with it and I thought the senior players - Forte and Lee - were exemplary with their approach to the game.”
Saints U21s: Cropper, Young, Stephens, Turnbull, Targett, Curtis, Moore, Reeves, Hoskins, Lee, Forte. Subs (not used): Johns, Gape, Sinclair.