Stoke 3 – 1 Stevenage

Stevenage’s FA Cup run came to an end as they were defeated 3-1 by Stoke in an entertaining tie.

The in-form League Two side, buoyed on by 3,291 travelling supporters, were eyeing passage to the fifth round of the competition for the first time since 2012.

However, their return to the midlands – where they came from behind to upset Unai Emery’s Aston Villa in the previous round – was an unhappy one.

The Potters took an early lead inside two minutes through Jacob Brown and assumed control.

Stevenage levelled in the second half through Villa Park hero Jamie Reid, but their reprieve was short-lived thanks to Josh Laurent’s magnificent effort and then Lewis Baker added a late third from the penalty spot.

With new recruit Bersant Celina registered just in time for the fixture, the on-loan Dijon playmaker was handed an immediate debut in a new 4-3-3 system.

And despite the tactical tweak, the hosts snatched an early lead with the Kosovo international taking no time at all to adapt to his new surroundings.

Lewis Baker scored Stoke’s third goal of the game from the penalty spot

An inviting Celina corner was flicked on by Ben Wilmot into the path of Brown, who composed himself before burying the opener inside the opening three minutes.

After securing their first Championship points of 2023 with a 4-0 thrashing of Reading last weekend, the Potters looked to continue where they left off.

Although the travelling supporters’ spirits were not dampened by the early setback, they were indebted to an inspired Taye Ashby-Hammond for keeping the game tight.

The Stevenage stopper was busy in the opening period and produced a string of impressive saves to keep the tie within reach.

A lively Celina went close when he looked to add the finishing touch to a swift Stoke counter, but a brilliant fingertip save diverted the effort wide.

Ashby-Hammond had to be rescued himself when Max Clark was in the right place to clear Wilmot’s goal-bound header off the line.

But normal service was resumed when Stevenage’s number one thwarted Will Smallbone from a dangerous position.

Steve Evans attempted to rouse a comeback with all substitutes made before the hour mark, and the fresh Stevenage legs eventually paid dividends.

Jamie Reid equalises for Stevenage
Jamie Reid equalised for Stevenage

After Celina struck the woodwork and Ashby-Hammond denied both Tyrese Campbell and Baker, the visitors found a leveller.

Reid – scorer of the stoppage time winner at Villa in the third round – prodded over an onrushing Jack Bonham with Wilmot failing to clear.

However, the celebrations of a packed away end were fleeting, with Laurent notching his first Stoke goal in spectacular fashion from long range.

And, after Brown was felled by Jonathan Tomkinson, Baker converted from 12 yards late on to secure the hosts’ victory and complete a positive January.

What’s next?

Stoke return to Championship action at Luton on Saturday – kick-off 3pm – before hosting Hull on Saturday February 11; kick-off 3pm.

Stevenage’s next game is at Sutton in League Two on Saturday – kick-off 3pm – before Bradford visit the Lamex Stadium on Saturday February 11; kick-off 3pm.

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Jacob Keiter is a husband, a writer, a journalist, a musician, and a business owner. His journey to becoming a writer was one that was paved with challenges, but ultimately led him to find his true calling. Jacob's early years were marked by a strong desire for creative expression. He was always drawn to music, and in his youth, he played in several bands, chasing the elusive promise of fame and success. However, despite his best efforts, Jacob struggled to find the recognition he craved. It wasn't until he hit a low point in his life that Jacob discovered his love for writing. He turned to writing as a form of therapy during a particularly difficult time, and found that it not only helped him to cope with his struggles, but also allowed him to express himself in a way that he had never been able to before. Jacob's writing skills quickly caught the attention of others, and he soon found himself working as a journalist for The Sun out of Hummelstown. From there, he went on to contribute to a variety of publications, including the American Bee Journal and Referee Magazine. Jacob's writing style is reflective of traditional journalism, but he also infuses his work with a unique voice that sets him apart from others in his field. Despite his success as a writer, Jacob also owns another business, JJ Auto & Home, which specializes in cleaning. Jacob's commitment to excellence is evident in all of his endeavors, whether it be in his writing or in his business ventures. Today, Jacob is the author of two books and continues to inspire others through his writing. His journey to becoming a writer serves as a reminder that sometimes our darkest moments can lead us to our greatest achievements.

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