A super strike from Charlie Gray, a Jaden Mears own goal and late Jaden Heskey goal were key as City beat Stoke 3-1 on Saturday afternoon.

Charlie Gray fired City ahead on his return from a lengthy spell on the sideline. His ranged effort was a composed strike which was just out of reach for Ruben Brammer nine minutes before half-time.

A Jaden Mears own goal a minute into the second half, after brilliant work by Farid Alfa-Ruprecht forced the error, put City firmly in control of the game.

Substitute Jaden Heskey sealed the win with a late goal that will have boosted City’s confidence ahead of our FA Youth Cup final next week.

But Stoke skipper Will Smith denied City of a perfect result after his clinical finish from the edge of the City box denied Ben Wilkinson’s side of tallying our first clean sheet of 2024.


Second from bottom hosted second from top in City’s penultimate league game of another impressive campaign in the Under-18 Premier League North.

And with our trip to Stoke the final match before our FA Youth Cup final against Leeds United, it was clear from kick-off Ben Wilkinson’s squad were looking to impress and showcase their talent as to why they should play in the showpiece final at the Etihad Stadium on Friday 10 May.

Another big rotation of players in the starting 11 compared to our draw with Everton and win over Leeds meant it took City some time to become accustomed to each other.

Stoke began the half looking to take an early lead but couldn’t quite find the final pass which would have allowed them to make the City net bulge.

And in typical City fashion, as the match clock ticked on, City increased our time on the ball and time in the opposition’s half.

After mounting on the pressure, Wilkinson’s side then broke the deadlock on 36 minutes.

A return to match action doesn’t get much better than scoring a goal. Charlie Gray placed his shot, clinically, into the right-side netting which left Brammer scrambling to try and make the save.

The opener was Gray’s first league goal of the 2023/24 campaign after Divine Mukasa set his team-mate up perfectly on the edge of the Stoke box with a little pass into Gray’s path.  

Stoke looked to retaliate but Josh Maskall’s shot was smothered by Brits three minutes later in their only chance after City went ahead.

A long ball by Kian Noble into the path of Alfa-Ruprecht saw him nudge the ball past Brammer but out wide. 

This left the forward with no choice but to play the pass into the box and into the path of the on-running Matty Warhurst.

But the City striker was beat to the ball by Jaden Mears who mishit the ball in an attempt to clear and smashed it into the back of his own goal to double City’s lead one minute into the second half.

City were oozing with confidence and saw spells of possession last minutes with Stoke having to remain resilient and focused for long periods of time without touching the ball. 

A blip in concentration allowed Noble to put a curling cross from the right into the box. It was met by substitute Heskey who tapped the ball home, on the volley, at the back post on 83 minutes to top off a fantastic afternoon of football from the young blues.

And it could have been the perfect afternoon if not for Stokes’ Smith. The captain snatched a clean sheet from City two minutes before full-time after his effort, almost like-for-like to Gray’s, saw the result end 3-1. 


Spike Brits was named as City’s keeper with a back line of Matty Henderson-Hall, Kian Noble, Femi Fapetu and Seb Naylor tasked with protecting our goal.

In City’s engine room, Charlie Gray returned to action with Divine Mukasa and Michael Okeke alongside him.

In-form Matty Warhurst led City’s attacking line with Joel Ndala and Farid Alfa-Ruprecht out wide.

STOKE XI: Brammer, Mears, Gyimah (Giani 62), Bickerton, Anderson, Smith, Challinor (Fearn 63), G.Kelly, Toure (J.Kelly 63) , Lipsuic, Maskall

UNUSED SUBS: Zeitzen, Powell

CITY XI: Brits, Henderson-Hall (Thomas 46), Noble, Fapetu, Naylor, Gray (Oboavwoduo 46), Alfa-Ruprecht (Heskey 61), Okeke, Warhurst, Mukasa, Ndala (Fletcher 61)



The three points further solidify our place in second in the Under-18 Premier League North table. 


A change in competition for Ben Wilkinson’s squad awaits.

We welcome Leeds United to the Etihad Stadium for the FA Youth Cup final.

You can buy tickets to the game here.

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