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Derby County Under-21s were beaten 2-1 by Stoke City in Premier League 2 on Friday evening.

Two goals in two minutes during the latter stages of the first half gave the Rams a mountain to climb, following efforts from Dara McGuinness and Nathan Lowe.

Derby were much more threatening after the interval, but were forced to wait until stoppage time to find a route to goal - Cruz Allen the player to eventually make the breakthrough.

But the task ultimately proved too much for Jake Buxton's side, who suffered defeat in their final outing at Loughborough University Stadium this season.

Both sides showed plenty of intent early on, but neither goalkeeper was tested until the 25th minute.

It was the visitors who claimed the first chance of the evening, when Keke Jeffers was played in down the Stoke left and afforded time to shoot from inside the area, but Jack Thompson made an excellent save with his feet to keep the game goalless.

The teams continued to find chances difficult to come by, but the opening goal came after sloppy play from the young Rams on 39 minutes.

Thompson looked to play a pass into Keilen Robinson's feet in a central position but, feeling the pressure from the visitors, he took a poor touch and Tom Sparrow seized on the loose ball. He advanced into the box before passing around the onrushing Thompson and finding McGuinness, who made no mistake from six yards out.

Two minutes later the task grew harder for Derby, with McGuinness turning provider. From the right-hand side, he found striker Lowe in a central position just outside the box and the forward emphatically finished beyond a helpless Thompson.

Niall McAndrew was introduced at the break and Derby got straight on the attack, with the substitute flashing a snap-shot narrowly wide seconds after the restart.

Derby were enjoying the lion's share of possession and remained patient as they looked for a breakthrough.

On 64 minutes, Allen struck narrowly over from 20 yards out, after turning well in midfield when found by Ryan Bartley's ball out of defence.

Stoke goalkeeper Tommy Simkin made an excellent save to keep McAndrew out shortly afterwards, when fellow half-time substitute Harry Hawkins found the wide man on the edge of the area. He checked inside onto his left foot and struck powerfully, but the stopper turned the effort over the crossbar.

Tony Weston saw a shot blocked from inside the area before Allen fired narrowly wide as the Rams kept the pressure on.

Stoke stemmed the flow of chances and almost found their third of the evening when a free-kick broke for McGuinness inside the box on 87 minutes. His effort on the swivel went wide of the target, though.

Derby kept plugging away in search of a goal, and Allen was thwarted by Simkin in the final minute of the 90 - this time a fine stop at his near post to keep the Welsh youth international out.

The breakthrough came with virtually the last kick of the game, when Allen took aim from range and gave Simkin no chance with an unstoppable strike into the top corner.

But the additional five minutes were already almost up and there was no time remaining for an equaliser from Buxton's side, who have three Premier League 2 games left to play this season.

Derby County Under-21s: Thompson, Perry, Bartley (Cox 84'), K Robinson, Gill, D Robinson, Stepien-Iwumene (T) (Hawkins 46'), Allen, Fapetu (McAndrew 46'), Nto (Moloney 65'), Weston.

Subs not used: Shattell (GK).

Stoke City Under-21s: Simkin, Curl, McCarron, Dixon, Anderson, Smith, McGuinness, Sidibe (Griffiths 70'), Lowe (Kershaw 84'), Sparrow, Jeffers.

Subs not used: Brooks (GK), Kamga, Jojic.