B Team Report: Back-to-back in PL2


Dom Ballard's fourth goal in three days meant it was back-to-back Premier League 2 wins for Southampton's B team at Reading on Monday night.

Saints's deserved lead came on 55 minutes, Ballard surging into the box on a solo run before finding the bottom corner and adding to his hat-trick for the Under-18s on Saturday.

The visitors had several other chances to extend their lead, but showed their defensive steal once again to make it two successive 1-0 victories away from home in the competition.

Without the likes of Will Smallbone and Thierry Small, the Saints side bore a far more youthful look than previous outings.

In came Under-18s regulars Matt Carson and Dom Ballard, with a welcome return for Ryan Finnigan after a spell out with injury.

After no wins in their last five the Royals were looking to make the most of home advantage.

Top scorers Kelvin Ehibhatiomhan and Mamadi Camará (three goals each) both started alongside Brazilian Felipe Araruna who was featuring for the first time in over a year.

It was the visitors who set the early ascendancy, typically through the direct runs of Kazeem Olaigbe who had a shot inside seven minutes deflected over.

Next came a chance via a corner, swung in by Caleb Watts before Olly Lancashire saw his header well blocked.

Full back Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo then burst down the right wing, finding space as he entered the box and producing a shot which was well claimed by keeper Harvey Collins.

Otseh-Taiwo then almost turned provider seconds later, producing a superb cross which skimmed the head of Dom Ballard inside the six-yard box.

Olaigbe then went close again, firing a first-time shot just wide of the keeper’s left post on the 20-minute mark.

Reading’s first opening fell to the right man in Ehibhatiomhan inside the six-yard box, but the Royals forward was unable to control the low cross before Dynel Simeu could clear.

Another chance came for Ehibhatiomhan just two minutes later; wriggling free of his man inside the box before firing towards goal and seeing his shot well blocked by Simeu.

After a spell of Reading pressure Saints began to regain control of the game, with Otseh-Taiwo and Carson the focal points on either flank.

The waves of attacks kept coming for the visitors. Finnigan with time to shoot inside the box with three minutes before the break but unable to find the target.

Despite the pressure it remained level until the break, with Saints unable to find that final pass after getting in promising positions.

Thankfully, as far as Dave Horseman was concerned, it was more of the same from his side in the second half.

Watts, Olaigbe, Finnigan and Ballard combined well in a shift counter attack minutes into the new half, once again just missing the final pass with Araruna able to put a vital foot in.

Then came a direct run from Ballard into the box which resulted in multiple chances in quick succession with Reading defending frantically. Somehow the hosts survived as Kegs Chauke shot over the bar.

On 54 minutes Saints finally got the breakthrough they deserved, thanks to a piece of Ballard brilliance.

The visitors broke at pace, Olaigbe feeding through the 17-year-old who still had a lot to do, but he found the bottom corner with ease after a superb solo run.

It was almost two in as many minutes, substitute Kamari Doyle with almost an instant impact hitting a strike on the volley which Collins did well to claim.

Reading looked for a way into the game, Simeu there again to deny what seemed a clear opening for Malachi Talent.

With 15 minutes to go Saints were almost gifted another, Reading laying the ball off into the path of Olaigbe who fired just over from the edge of the box.

Despite Reading’s response the visitors continued to find space on the counter as they searched for the illusive second. Olaigbe fired from the edge again and this time forced a strong save from Collins who had to tip over on 78 minutes.

Jayden Smith was bought on in place of Ballard for the final portion of the action and almost made his mark, firing a fierce effort across goal which just missed Collins’ far post.

The chances kept coming on the counter, Watts producing a superb through ball into the path of Olaigbe from the right wing. The Saints forward denied by Collins once more.

Reading continued to search for an equaliser as the game entered stoppage time, only to be met by the same resilient Saints defence that met Wolves last-time-out.

It meant back-to-back wins for Saints in Premier League 2 for the first time this season after two superb performances away from home.

Next up high-flying Aston Villa visit Snows Stadium on Sunday 31st October (2pm BST).