Stoke 3-1 Stevenage: Potters see off challenge to progress in FA Cup

Stoke 3-1 Stevenage: Jacob Brown, Josh Laurent and Lewis Baker on target as Potters see off a valiant challenge from their League Two opposition to progress to the FA Cup fifth round

  • Jacob Brown’s opener after just three minutes gave Alex Neil’s side a flying start
  • The League Two side hit back with a goal from Jamie Reed after 70 minutes
  • But a sublime left-footed strike from Josh Laurent put Potters back in the lead
  • Lewis Baker added a third for home side following a dubious penalty decision

This was one FA Cup miracle too far for Stevenage but for a giddy few minutes it did appear the conquerors of Aston Villa might claim another headline-grabbing result.

Stoke had been the superior side, but when Jamie Reid burst through to cancel out Jacob Brown’s early goal, there was a very distinct sense here that the League Two underdogs could cause more mischief.

Alas, it wasn’t to be this time for Steve Evans and his doughty team. The celebrations in the away end had barely died down when Josh Laurent’s screamer restored the Championship club’s lead and Lewis Baker made sure with a penalty.

Josh Laurent scored the pick of the goals as Stoke dispatched League Two Stevenage in the FA Cup

Evans and Stoke boss Alex Neil completed their coaching badges together, both hail from Scotland and are good pals. Neil wouldn’t have been surprised to see his team troubled by the battling qualities Evans has instilled.

But the truth was Stoke should have been well out of sight, with Stevenage indebted to their goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond, who made a series of important saves at 1-0.

This FA Cup run offers the Potters some respite from the drudgery of lower half existence in the Championship, though they must put some more points on the board to banish relegation fears.

Jacob Brown third-minute goal gave Alex Neil’s side a perfect start in the fourth round clash

Stevenage will return to the bread and butter of winning promotion into League One and they certainly won’t be dismayed by the manner of this defeat.

It had already been a good weekend for Stevenage with the only team above them in League Two, Leyton Orient, losing 1-0 at Tranmere on Saturday. That result left Stevenage two points behind Orient with two games in hand.


Stoke City (4-3-3): Bonham, Tymon, Taylor (Jagielka 17), Wilmot, Sterling (Hoever 77), Smallbone (Baker 62), Laurent, Thompson, Brown, Campbell (Fox 78), Celina

Substitutes not used: Kilkenny, Wright-Phillips, Macari, Fielding, Tezgel

Manager: Alex Neil

Goals: Brown 3′, Laurent 74′, Baker 80′(Pen)

Booked: Smallbone

Stevenage (3-5-2): Ashby-Hammond, Clark (Tomkinson 46), Piergianni, Vancooten (Taylor 43), Sweeney, Wildin, Gilbey (Smith 56), Reeves, Roberts (Campbell 18), Reid, Rose (Norris 56)

Substitutes not used: Chapman, Bostwick

Manager: Steve Evans

Goals: Reid 71′

Attendance: 14,392 (3,291 away)

Their boisterous 3,300 travelling fans sung ‘we are going up’ but be in no doubt they didn’t want their FA Cup adventure to conclude quite yet.

They got off to a dreadful start against a strong Stoke side, with Neil handing a debut to the Kosovo international Bersant Celina, just arrived on loan from Dijon.

Entrusted right away with corner-taking duties, it didn’t take long for Celina, a product of Manchester City’s academy, to make an impact.

His third-minute delivery was headed on by Ben Wilmot at the near post and Brown was afforded an embarrassing amount of time and space to control the ball and slam home his sixth of the campaign.

The Championship club tried to press home their early advantage, with the lively Celina curling an effort narrowly wide.

Stevenage were grateful to Ashby-Hammond, on loan from Fulham, for keeping them in the contest.

On 21 minutes, a counter-attack saw the ball worked right-to-left through Tyrese Campbell, Brown and then into Celina, whose angled drive was nudged wide by the keeper’s left hand.

From the resulting corner, Wilmot rose highest to meet Celina’s ball and Max Clark had to head it off the line.

Stevenage were being dominated and Evans switched his formation to match Stoke’s 4-2-3-1 and try to gain a foothold.

But Ashby-Hammond was again their saviour with a sprawling save to deny Will Smallbone after Campbell had skipped past Clark on the Stoke right to cut back.

It didn’t help Stevenage that the man pushed into midfield from defence, Terence Vancooten, was forced off with an injury just before half-time.

Stoke, meanwhile, had earlier suffered their own injury blow with centre-back Connor Taylor limping off and replaced by 40-year-old Phil Jagielka.

Brown found himself unmarked at the back post following an early corner and struck home

Evans threw on Stevenage’s leading scorer, Luke Norris, 11 minutes after the restart in a bid to change the momentum.

Stoke needed a second to feel comfortable and Ashby-Hammond denied Campbell after Celina’s deft through ball from the right.

The longer the scoreline remained 1-0, the more you sensed Stevenage might nick something. Their fans yelled for handball against Josh Laurent when the ball deflected up onto his arm at close quarters.

Former England international Phil Jagielka was forced into action following an injury 

Jamie Reid then swivelled and forced Stoke keeper Jack Bonham into rare action after Jake Taylor’s tenacity had bullied Lewis Baker off the ball.

Celina was Stoke’s principal threat on his first outing and his effort was deflected onto the outside of the post before Ashby-Hammond parried away Baker’s strike.

Moments later and Stevenage punished Stoke for failing to kill the game off. It came from a long goal kick that was nodded on by Taylor, with Reid showing too much pace for Jagielka before knocking it over Bonham.

Jamie Reed got the League Two side back into the game with his goal after 70 minutes

Wilmot tried to clear it off the line but tripped over himself and landed in the back of the net as Reid ran off to celebrate in front of the delirious travelling fans.

That parity lasted a mere couple of minutes, however, before Laurent’s brilliant goal. Stevenage allowed the Stoke captain to step inside from the right and keep advancing before shooting space opened up 30 yards form goal.

Laurent couldn’t have hit the ball any more sweetly as it roared into the top corner.

Not that Stevenage were ever going to lie down – Taylor had a good number inside the Bet365 Stadium thinking he’d score when he rippled the side-netting.

But Laurent’s response and a Lewis Baker penalty was enough to see the Potters through

But the visitors were left incensed when referee David Webb adjudged Jonathan Tomkinson brought down Brown in the box and Baker thumped home the penalty.

It looked harsh on Tomkinson, who clearly won the ball before making contract with the man. The away fans were further annoyed when the replay was shown on the big screen.

Webb angered them even more in the closing minutes when he waved away spot-kick appeals after Jordan Thompson bumped into Taylor, who went down.

But the moment for a spectacular comeback had passed.

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