Fulham’s under 23s made certain of top spot in their Premier League Cup group with a narrow 2-1 win over Stoke City at the Lyme Valley Stadium this afternoon. Goals from Sonny Hilton and a trialist secured all three points against a spirited Stoke side, whose chances of making the quarter finals hinge on Monday’s meeting with Southend.

Fulham travelled to Staffordshire already assured of progression to the last eight thanks to three wins and a draw in their four first group fixtures. Steve Wigley was expected to rotate more widely than he did, with Julian Schwarzer – son of Mark – getting a start in goal and the afore-mentioned trialist in Fulham’s front line. Captain Hilton, who had settled the league meeting between these sides with a late winner last month, just took three minutes to give the visitors a dream start – even if he may have a been a fortunate to see his corner evade the attentions of Blondy Nna Noukeu, who may have been distracted by the presence of four Fulham attackers in his six yard box, and fly straight into the top corner.

Hilton was denied by the Stoke goalkeeper at his near post as the in-form playmaker looked to make it two on the quarter half mark and it took until midway through the first half for the Potters to create an opening of their own. Douglas Taylor drilled an effort just wide of goal after excellent approach play from Will Goodwin before Taylor was denied by a superb saving tackle from Idris Odutayo after going around Schwarzer.

Stoke continued to be much more assertive in the second period and after both Ibane Bowat and Odutayo had made crucial headers in their own box they got their reward. Just before the hour mark, Will Forrester climbed highest to head home an Adam Porter corner at the far post to bring the Potters deservedly level after a succession of home corners. They pushed for a second with Schwarzer having to charge out of his box to beat Taylor to a through ball and Tom Sparrow shooting over, but were beaten by a classic sucker punch.

Fulham’s mystery trialist produced a brilliant turn and finish inside the penalty area after latching onto Hilton’s pass to put Wigley’s men back in front. Hilton then shot wide from long range as the visitors looked to make sure of the three points and they survived a late home onslaught, with Schwarzer only called upon to smother a Max McCarthy shot.

STOKE CITY UNDER 23s (4-4-2): Nna Noukeu; Curl, Coates, Okagbue (Trialist 60), Forrester; Malone, Oakley-Boothe, Sparro, Porter (Sy 63); Goodwin (McCarthy 77), D. Taylor. Subs (not used): Hemfrey, Griffiths.

GOAL: Forrester (58).

FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): J. Schwarzer; D’Auria-Henry, Larkeche, Odutayo, Bowat; Page, Pajaziti; Hilton, Bowie, Lanquedoc (C. Robinson 60); Trialist (Caton 82). Subs (not used): Adams.

GOALS: Hilton (3), Trialist (69).