Terry Ablade scored a superb hat-trick as Fulham’s under 21s stormed into the semi-finals of the Premier League Cup with a sensational 6-1 victory at Stoke City this afternoon.

Steve Wigley opted for a switch in system to a classic 4-3-3 of the kind preferred by Slavisa Jokanovic to accommodate both the return of winger Sylvester Jasper and allow skipper Sonny Hilton to orchestrate play from the middle of the park. Callum McFarlane, a penalty box poacher since his summer arrival at Motspur Park, operated in the engine room as well and Fulham’s fluidity ultimately completely overwhelmed their hosts.

The young Whites began brightly with Martial Godo battling to win the ball back before sparking a swift break that saw Ablade denied by a brave block as he pulled the trigger from an acute angle. The Potters spurned a good chance to take the lead when Connor Taylor headed over after being found by a fine free-kick from Sam Clucas. The visitors were ruthless from their very next attack with Jasper surging along the left flank before his precise cross was guided home by Ablade.

Alex Borto, who had replaced George Wickens between the sticks, held a drive from distance from Will Smith but the Whites looked irresistible at the other end of the field. A confident Jasper had a go from distance that drew a sharp save from Stoke keeper Tommy Simkin, who then produced two superb stops to deny George Okkas and Ablade with real agility in quick succession.

But Wigley’s side went into the interval two goals to the good as Ablade bagged his second deep into stoppage time. The in-form forward did brilliantly to beat a square Stoke defence and Simkin to Jasper’s through ball and found the empty net with unerring accuracy. The Bulgarian under-21 international’s limped off injured five minutes into the second half, although the return of Matt Dibley-Dias – which required a return to a more familiar return formation – gave the midfielder a taste of competitive football after months on the sidelines.

Stoke reduced their arrears shortly after that substitution with Jacob Holland-Wilkinson showing fancy feet to get away from Charlie Robinson and beat Borto with a clever finish. But Hilton, outstanding all afternoon, quickly reinstated the Whites’ two-goal advantage with a terrific half-volley after a bit of pinball in the Fulham final third. Hilton turned provider a few minutes later by sending in another excellent corner, which Ablade headed emphatically home to complete his hat-trick.

Hilton added a fifth with an assured finish after being released behind the home defence by a glorious Godo through ball before substitutes Terrell Works and Olly Sanderson linked up to allow the latter to score a sixth with three minutes remaining.

STOKE CITY UNDER 21s (4-2-3-1): Simkin; Taylor, Okagbue (Mears 75), Macari, Redfern, Smith (Holland-Wilkinson 45), Reddin, Clucas (Lewis 75′), Kershaw, Hayder, McGuinness. Subs (not used): Houston, Roney.

BOOKED: Kershaw.

GOAL: Holland-Wilkinson (52).

FULHAM (4-3-3): Borto; Tanton, Araujo (Works 76), C. Robinson, Williams; Okkas, McFarlane (Sanderson 62), Hilton (de Jesus 76); Godo, Jasper (Dibley-Dias 50). Subs (not used): Allen.

BOOKED: Araujo, Williams.

GOALS: Ablade (14, 45+3, 64), Hilton (60, 67), Sanderson (87).

REFEREE: Sam Mulhall.