Dael Fry came through an hour unscathed as Boro’s Under-23s hosted Stoke City at Heritage Park.
On the eve of our first team fixture against Blackburn Rovers, head coach Jonathan Woodgate was among the spectators as Fry played his first competitive football of the season after injury.
Our Under-23s, under the stewardship of Mark Tinkler, suffered a first defeat of the PL2 season after beating Aston Villa at the same venue last weekend.
Boro started brightly, and could have opened the scoring after just six minutes when Connor Malley found Isaiah Jones in all kinds of space. But the wide man needed to check his run, and the linesman was quick to raise his flag and deny Jones despite a cool finish.
Jones was involved again with 14 played when he lashed into the side netting at the end of another flowing counter-attack.
Just minutes later Rumarn Burrell, Boro’s no.9 in both shirt number and striking role on the night, came close when latching onto a delightful ball in behind from Nathan Dale. Burrell spun his marker but fired straight at Blondy Nnanoukeu in the City goal.
Boro’s goalkeeper Zach Hemming was called into serious action for the first time just before the half-hour mark, getting down low to his left to parry Gabriel Kyeremateng’s shot away.
Boro had shaded the first half, but would go in behind. With less than ten seconds of ordinary time remaining in the first period, the ball fell into the path of Thibaud Verlinden, who strode forward with purpose before striking low beyond Hemming.
Chances were at a premium after the restart as Stoke stood firm on their one-goal advantage.
With Boro increasingly pressing forward in search of an equaliser, Verlinden attempted an audacious lob from inside his own half, but Hemming watched it sail over his crossbar.
The same Stoke man could have doubled his tally as the visitors pounced on a misplaced pass, but his arrowed shot from wide right sailed over the crossbar.
Hemming proved equal to Oliver Shenton’s fierce close-range strike, before City sub Mohamed Sankoh battled free but skewed harmlessly wide.
The game restarted following a long delay after a nasty-looking clash between Boro's Jack Robinson and Stoke sub Kieran Coates saw both players leave the field on a stretcher.
But it was the Potters who profited from a lengthy period of time added on, as Shenton broke away and hammered home a second.
Boro U23s: Hemming, Dodds, Robinson, Liddle, Fry (Hood 60), Dale, Jones (Folarin 81), Hackney, Burrell, Malley, Roberts (Wearne 73)
Unused subs: Sykes, Flatters
Stoke City U23s: Nnanoukeu, Pemberton, Shenton, Forrester, McJannet, Kigbu (Corrigan 62), Dunwoody, Sorensen, Kyeremateng (Sankoh M. 58), Verlinden, Jarvis (Coates 88)
Unused subs: Broome, Sankoh A.