B Team Report: Ballard bags brace in Boro draw


Southampton’s B team could only take a point back to Hampshire in a lively 2-2 draw against Middlesbrough in Premier League 2 action at Rockliffe Park.

Dom Ballard opened the scoring before Calum Kavanagh equalised, all within the first five minutes.

Ballard restored the lead before the break as Pharrell Willis hit back in the second half with neither side able to find a winner.

Dave Horseman’s side travelled to the North East for the third time this season, on this occasion making three changes from their last outing - a narrow PL Cup defeat against Everton.

Jayden Meghoma started at left-back, whilst Cam Bragg entered the side in midfield as Ballard returned to the forward line to partner Luke Pearce.

The game began at a blistering pace at Rockliffe Park, with both sides testing their opponents' goal inside the opening two minutes before finding the back of the net within the first five.

Kamari Doyle proved to be an early threat, racing to the byline and cutting the ball back to Sam Amo-Ameyaw who saw his shot saved with the rebound cleared away by the Boro defence.

With just three minutes on the clock though, Doyle’s incisive passing paid off as he released Ballard behind the defence; Saints’ striker made no mistake as he drilled a first time, left-footed shot past Max Metcalfe.

But, less than two minutes later, the scores were tied as Kavanagh fired an angled effort from the left wing that flew in at the near post and provided an instant response for the hosts.

Amo-Ameyaw came close to restoring the lead, as the game gradually levelled out from its feverish start, with a powerful shot from range that was tipped behind for a corner.

Pearce was next to try his luck after Ballard had turned provider, but Metcalfe was alert to produce another goal-saving stop.

The constant pressure from Saints was too much for Boro to handle at times, and the same combination of Doyle and Ballard helped restore the lead.

Ballard this time opted to shoot with his right foot after steadying himself to finish at the near post to notch his 10th PL2 goal of the season.

The hosts weren’t easing their pressure and forged a handful of dangerous opportunities for another equaliser.

Pharell Willis hit an effort from distance high and wide, before Sonny Finch followed suit from an even more promising position inside the penalty area.

Saints responded with an excellent flowing attack that came from Meghoma’s persistent battling; the full-back drove forward and eventually found Ballard who couldn’t convert for a first half hat-trick.

Boro’s goalscorer Kavanagh almost had a brace of his own as he hit the woodwork, rising unchallenged to meet a dangerous cross but he was unable to direct his header into the back of the net.

Ollie Wright was called into action twice as the first half came to a close; he first denied Finch with an excellent low save, then remained alert to stop a point-blank header from the resulting corner before the linesman’s flag was raised.

Middlesbrough maintained their frantic search for another equaliser as the second half began, and found their way through just before the hour mark.

Willis was released with a one-on-one opportunity and slotted the ball home to restore parity once more.

The Boro forward appeared to suffer a serious injury during the shot, cutting his afternoon short and resulting in a lengthy break in play.

The game became scrappy when it resumed with chances few and far between as Horseman’s side grew restless in their hunt for a winning goal; Amo-Ameyaw came closest with a shot over the crossbar after a flowing counter-attack.

As the clock ticked into nine minutes of injury time, substitute Tyler Dibling had a near post effort saved before Jeremy Sivi had a similar chance whistle past Wright’s far post.

The scores ended level, however, in a game that ended with frustration but could prove to be a valuable point at the business end of the season.