Alex Kitchen

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Newcastle United Under-18s 3 (Gilliead, Maddison, Hooper)
Stoke City Under-18s 1 (Richardson)

A strong second half showing from Newcastle United saw Dave Watson's youngsters continue their 100 per cent league home record and move another step closer to lifting the Premier Academy League Group D title.

The Magpies were trailing 1-0 to Jordan Richardson's goal at the break, but Alex Gilliead levelled with his first goal at under-18 level shortly after the restart.

Marcus Maddison's deflected strike put the home side ahead at Little Benton before JJ Hooper wrapped up the points late on.

In the opening exchanges, Stoke pinned Newcastle in their own half with a similarly direct style to that of their first-team - and in Richardson, they even have a long-throw expert to rival Rory Delap.

But after Jack Nardiello stabbed a half-chance wide, Watson's youngsters created two good opportunities. The first fell to Hooper, who sprinted onto Ben Sayer's pass and advanced towards goal but dragged his shot across goal from 12 yards, under pressure from a posse of red and white shirts.

Then from Dennis Knight's clever free-kick, Maddison volleyed towards goal but Potters stopper Dale Eve made a fine reflex save.

And on 19 minutes, Richardson struck first for the visitors as the ball broke kindly to him 22 yards from goal and the midfielder's sweet effort was past Alex Baird before the Australian could even move.

Maddison then brought the best out of Eve for a second time, showing superb skill to check back inside the box and unleash a shot goalwards, only for the keeper to beat the ball away.

But Stoke ended the half on top as Andy Musungu hit the side-netting with a searing drive from the edge of the area before Andy Hall's left-wing cross was met by Marcel Barrington but Baird superbly tipped the striker's header over the bar at full stretch.

Nardiello also saw a powerful header thunder off the underside of the bar shortly before the interval, but Newcastle came out with a different shape for the second half.

Knight, who had missed the last two games through suspension but was also returning from injury, was substituted for left-back Michael Riley, allowing Michael Hoganson to revert to left-wing, Maddison to switch to the right and England under-16 prospect Gilliead to play as a second striker.

And after Maddison was again thwarted by Eve after Hooper teed him up, the Magpies equalised on 54 minutes. Maddison was involved, as he was in most Newcastle attacks, as his free-kick was charged down but kept alive by the Durham-born winger, who proceeded to cross low and hard for Gilliead to convert at the far post.

It was the Consett-based 16-year-old's second start for the under-18s and the goal was a deserved reward for an impressive individual display by the St. Bede's Catholic School pupil.

A piledriver from Ben Sayer flew inches wide two minutes later, but Newcastle were grateful to Baird for two good saves shortly after the hour mark as he twice kept out Barrington, first with a diving stop after the striker had turned and shot, then from close range following Musungu's cutback.

And in the 69th minute, Watson's side surged ahead. After some patient build-up, Maddison tried his luck from 18 yards and as Eve went one way, the ball took a heavy deflection off a defender and was diverted into the net.

Stoke piled on the pressure but the United defence, superbly marshalled by captain Louis Storey and the excellent Alex Kitchen, held firm and three minutes from time, Hooper sealed the win.

Maddison was the instigator again, with his darting run and incisive pass allowing the striker to steer first-time towards the bottom corner for his tenth of the campaign and although Stoke sub Karim Rossi fired over in the final moments, Newcastle were worthy winners.

Newcastle United Under-18s: Alex Baird, Steven Logan, Michael Hoganson, Louis Storey, Alex Kitchen, Alex Gilliead, Ben Sayer, Brandon Miele, Marcus Maddison, Dennis Knight (Michael Riley 46), JJ Hooper

Subs not used: Jonathan Mitchell, Jamie Smith, Esteban Cardona Lopez