Manchester United's Under-21s slipped to a second defeat of the season as Stoke City pinched the points with Adam Thomas' second-half header.
Warren Joyce's side were unable to break down a stubborn defence, even after the sending off of Ryan O'Reilly, but some really positive news was Darren Fletcher's first full 90 minutes of the season as he continues to work his way back to full fitness.
Will Keane's afternoon was cut short within a couple of minutes as he picked up a cut to his head. Although, thankfully, the problem did not look too serious, the stream of blood meant he had to replaced and there's little doubt the Reds missed the striker's physical presence up front.
Wilfried Zaha produced some moments of magic down the right and powered straight through the middle to supply the highlight of the first half, with only his finish lacking after riding a couple of challenges. Fletcher was also close to opening the scoring when, after good approach work by Larnell Cole and substitute Tom Lawrence, his shot was diverted off target by keeper Ray Bachmann.
Charlie Ward had the best efforts for Stoke but was unable to hit the target with a few attempts from long range, even if it highlighted a threat from the visitors. And the Potters broke the deadlock on 57 minutes when Thomas attacked a near-post corner ahead of Ben Amos to score with a brave header.
Six minutes later, O'Reilly clattered into a late tackle on Lawrence to earn a second yellow card after his poor challenge on Fletcher in the first half was a borderline red. Captain Tom Thorpe planted a header onto the top of the net as the Reds looked to make headway against the 10 men but the game became very stop-start and chances were at a premium.
Substitute Jack Barmby felt he was nudged over by Elliot Wheeler inside the box but no penalty was forthcoming and, in truth, Bachmann was not overly extended as United struggled to find a cutting edge without Will Keane.
The Under-21s are not in action again until 2 December when Blackburn Rovers provide the opposition, which will not help the quest to start climbing the table and catching up on