Mason secures deserved win
Ryan Mason's goal kept our reserves' title hopes alive as we dominated against Stoke despite playing 80 minutes with 10 men.
Ryan Mason's goal kept our reserves' title hopes alive as we dominated against Stoke despite playing 80 minutes with 10 men on Wednesday night.
Mason, at the centre of the action all night, met John Bostock's cross and planted his header beyond Stoke keeper Tom Harrison for the only goal of the game in the 66th minute.
The win means we can still overhaul leaders Aston Villa if they slip-up in their final game against West Brom on Monday. However, Villa will secure the title with a win that night.
The lads thoroughly deserved their sixth win on the trot in the Barclays Reserve League South after dominating from start to finish at Nantwich Town's Weaver Stadium.
They did so after losing Jake Livermore to a somewhat harsh straight red card in the 11th minute when he trod down on Tom Urwin and caught him on the left foot. It looked mistimed at worst but must have appeared as a stamp to referee Mr Hester, who didn't hesitate in brandishing the red card.
Gilberto had already struck the crossbar by then and the remaining 80 minutes was completely one-way traffic towards the Stoke goal.
We were faultless defensively and Stoke struggled to cope with the passing and movement of the likes of Mason, Bostock and Dean Parrett with full-backs Adam Smith and Gilberto joining in at all times.
We struck the woodwork twice more while Harrison made five top-class saves to prevent a runaway scoreline.
Stoke were restricted to one good chance and that came from our corner when Harrison gathered and kicked long for Urwin, who was denied by Ben Alnwick's legs.
Harrison's work started with a fingertip wide from Mason's free-kick in the 15th minute and continued with saves from Bostock, Mason and Dawkins. Bostock also drilled just wide and missed a header, Dawkins fired another volley straight at Harrison and Mason's clever chip drifted just over but it remained goalless in a game we had to win.
Nathan Byrne replaced Dawkins at half-time with Bostock moving up front and Clive Allen opting to go with just three at the back and Smith and Gilberto pushed forward on either flank.
We simply picked up where we left off with Smith's early raids down the right causing alarm in the home defence.
One of those raids led to a corner and inadvertently set-up Stoke's best chance. Harrison claimed the corner and kicked upfield to Urwin, he raced into the box but found Alnwick up to the task, saving with his legs. It was his only serious action all night.
Mason soon angled a shot wide and there was a collective look of 'it might be one of those nights' from the men in blue just after the hour when Bostock controlled and hammered a volley from barely eight yards out that flew straight into Harrison's stomach and stuck - a foot either way and the net would have been taken off.
Thankfully, the goal was just minutes away. Bostock worked a yard of space on the left side of the box and clipped in a cross that Mason met with a powerful header from 10 yards finally beyond Harrison and home, 66 minutes on the clock.
The goal made absolutely no difference to the game as a whole as we continued to press forward.
Yaser Kasim and Parrett had shots deflected just wide, Ricardo Rocha's header looped up and clipped the back of the crossbar and then Mason controlled Parrett's wonderful pass and lifted over Harrison only for the woodwork to come to Stoke's rescue again.
Byrne had the final chance after a passage of play that typified the night as we won the ball back and popped it around for a minute or so, Mason, Parrett, Gilberto and Bostock all involved before Bostock crossed for Byrne to head wide from close range.
Stoke City: Harrison, Daio-Jiminez, Wedderburn, Connor, Alexander (Wint, 64), Cohen, Urwin, Nicholls, Brunt, Moult, Stockhall. Subs: Parton (GK), Mitchell.
Spurs: Alnwick, Smith, Gilberto, Livermore, Rocha, Caulker, Mtandari (Kasim, 64), Parrett, Dawkins (Byrne, 46), Mason, Bostock. Subs: Jansson, Cox, Butcher.