Jan 19 2012 by Paul Wheelock, Chester Chronicle
CHESTER FC Under 16s produced a incredible comeback to claim a thoroughly deserved draw against top-class opposition.
Gareth Richards’ side looked to be heading for a heavy defeat to Stoke City U16s when they fell three goals behind early in the second half.
But the Blues battled back brilliantly to make it 3-3 and earn a share of the spoils at the Premier League club’s training base.
Chester manager Richards said: “It was a great team performance that included some fantastic individual displays, none more so than that of midfielder Jack Hankey who was at the heart of everything positive both defensively and going forward.”
The outstanding facilities at Clayton Wood, which is home to both Stoke’s first-team and academy players, provided the backdrop for what was an enthralling encounter.
As they had done in their 2-0 defeat at Wigan Athletic U16s the previous weekend, the Blues started brightly despite losing top scorer Lewis Donovan to injury.
A series of chances came and went, the best of which fell to Joe Williams, and the visitors were made to pay on the stroke of half-time when Stoke took advantage of a lapse in concentration to open the scoring.
The Potters doubled their advantage in the 49th minute, netted a third shortly after and would have added a fourth had it not been for a brilliant double save from Ryan Neild.
Inspired by their goalkeeper’s heroics and the introduction of Ben Graham off the bench, the Blues regained their composure and reduced the arrears when a long throw from substitute Williams was flicked on by Tom Peers for Hankey to head home his first goal of the season.
That was the way it stayed until four minutes from time when captain Lloyd Pownall converted a penalty awarded after Williams was brought down in the box.
And better was to come in the final minute as Rob Gilroy fired in a dramatic equaliser.
Boss Richards added: “We got exactly what we deserved, not just for showing the fantastic character to get back in it, but for having the confidence as well as the ability to get the ball down and express ourselves against a Premier League academy team that has been together for nearly five years.”
Chester squad: Ryan Neild, Ben Gregory, Nathan Rowe, Lloyd Pownall, Sam Parsons, Tom Peers, Jack Hankey, Sam Graham, Lewis Donovan, Rob Gilroy, Liam Blake, Joe Williams, George Mannion, Ben Graham, Harry Murray, Danny Moore.