Southampton’s B team concluded their pre-season preparations with victory in a hard-fought battle with AFC Totton on Tuesday.
A familiar setting for Dave Horseman’s side, fans filtered into Snows Stadium on a glorious sun-filled evening for the local match-up.
After a sustained period of possession for Saints in the early stages of the contest, their confidence on the ball was consolidated as they took the lead after just five minutes through Rylee Wright.
It was an assertive start for Saints, who looked to finish their extensive pre-season preparations on a high. With the ball falling kindly for Ryan Finnigan within two minutes of play, he took his chance in front of goal, though it fired high over the crossbar.
As the hosts looked to hit the counter, a slip up from Charlie Kennedy handed Tommy-Lee Higgs the ball, a slick pass into Wright and the visitors had the advantage.
Just moments later, Wright nearly doubled both his and Saints’ tally for the evening. Jake Vokins, who returns to Saints after a successful loan spell at Ross County for the 2021/22 season, drilled a low ball across the goal with the goal scorer seemingly set for his second before it escaped wide of the post.
Totton looked to strike back, with two consecutive corners providing their first opportunities of the game, but some stellar defending from Saints saw the ball cleared on both occasions.
Undeterred by Saints’ opener, the hosts began to find their footing in the game. Some nice work down the left-wing saw Harry Medway fire in a cross to Scott Rendell at the far post, though his thumping header could only meet the hands of Matt Hall in goal.
20 minutes into the contest, Higgs was brought down on the side of the area, with Saints awarded a free-kick in a position James Ward-Prowse likely dreams off.
It was Ryan Finnigan who looked to emulate the heroics of the first team captain and while his low shot found its way through the wall, it was a comfortable save for Lewis Noice.
Totton nearly found the equaliser as a stunning period of play from the hosts saw Jireh Oyebamiji take on Hall in the box after a fantastic run in behind. The Saints goalkeeper managed to make it to the ball in time but unable to hold on to it, it fell to Jake Adams to monopolise on the threat with Hall away from his line.
Quick to get back, Will Tizzard’s solid header from the line temporarily cleared the threat for Saints, allowing Hall to get back into position for the continuing onslaught.
Oyebamiji continued to pose a threat for the hosts, producing a quality bit of play as he back heeled the ball through the legs of the Saints defence and into Ethan Taylor in the box, but again the Stags lacked the finish in front of goal.
An even game followed for the closing 15 minutes of the opening half, with both teams producing opportunities in front of goal. Wright remained dangerous down the right wing for Saints, crossing the ball into the area but with no man there to poach it in, the advantage remained at just one.
Displaying his prowess once more, a beautiful solo charge down the right from Wright saw Saints look dangerous on the counter, but two strong tackles from Jack Masterson pushed the ball out of play.
The resulting throw-in saw a looping shot from Jeremi Rodriguez come close to finding the back of the net as it looked to fall just under the crossbar before Noice tipped the ball over for another Saints corner.
Some lovely work in and around the area for Saints appeared to challenge the local opposition, with Higgs somehow managing to maintain possession for Saints despite being on the ground on the edge of the box. Ferry looked to try his luck on the release, but his shot was comfortably retrieved by Noice.
With two additional minutes indicated at the 45 minute mark, Totton looked to draw level before the break. With Masterson bundled over near the half-way line, a delectable delivery from the free-kick fell for Rendell but ultimately Hall was there to prevent the goal.
With the teams emerging from the break, Dave Horseman opted to make two changes for the second-half with Nico Lawrence and Ollie Wright coming on in place of Will Tizzard and Matt Hall respectively.
With ten minutes of the second-half played, in what appeared an innocuous challenge between Finnigan and Oyebamiji, the Saints man received treatment on the pitch before being carried off for further assessment.
With a five minute break in play threatening to break up the momentum, the hosts showed glimmers of promise with Oyebamiji once again the man who looked threatening in front of goal, firing wide from inside the area before seeing his time on the pitch come to an end.
Replacing Totton’s shining star of the evening, Yemi Odubade found himself in the midst of the action almost instantly as he delivered a tantalising ball into Rendell inside the box, though he failed to make contact.
Opportunities were few and far between for much of the second-half, with Totton the more dominant of the two sides in attack.
Struggling to find rhythm, Saints nearly found themselves conceding an own goal as a sliced clearance edged wide of the post and away for a Totton corner. Another solid defensive display from Dave Horseman’s men, though, who adequately cleared the threat to maintain their advantage.
It took until the 80th minute for Saints to spark into life again, with Nico Lawrence finding the end of a cross-field ball but heading it inches wide.
A resilient display from Totton lasted until the closing moments, with an excellent diving punch from Wright denying them a last minute goal in normal time.
Deep into the six additional minutes of extra time at Snows Stadium, the Stags came inches away from finding the all important equaliser. Taylor whipped in a wonderful, curling ball from the free-kick but his delivery from 30-yards-out failed to meet the heads of any of his teammates, with the whistle being blown just moments later.
Saints kick off their Premier League 2 campaign next Monday 8th August against Nottingham Forest at Meadow Lane.