Southampton’s B team ended their Premier League 2 league campaign with a rampant 5-2 victory over Norwich City at Carrow Road, sealing a second place playoff finish with their title hopes hanging in the balance.
Early strikes from Dom Ballard and Kamari Doyle saw Saints race into a two-goal lead inside five minutes.
Sam Amo-Ameyaw added a third before the break to cap off an impressive first half
Norwich reduced the deficit early in the second half only for Doyle to respond instantly with a trademark free-kick, before another goal apiece saw the score end in an impressive away win.
Southampton made three changes for their final game of the regular season as last week’s addition of first team experience dropped out of the side.
Matt Carson slotted into centre-back to make his first start in seven months after his recent return from a lengthy injury, whilst Lewis Payne and Jay Robinson also returned to the starting line-up.
Kicking off at the same time as Leeds United elsewhere in the division, Saints knew that nothing less than a win would secure them a second place finish and put pressure on their Northern rivals who required four points from their final two games in the battle for the title.
With that knowledge, Saints raced out of the blocks and blew their opponents away in the space of five minutes to stun the Carrow Road crowd.
Ballard opened the scoring inside two minutes amid a crowded penalty area as he powered home for his 25th goal across all age groups this season.
Before the hosts could recover the lead was doubled as Ballard turned provider, latching onto an excellent Cam Bragg pass before facing up a defender and rolling the ball to Doyle who stroked it into the bottom corner.
Norwich were shell shocked, but managed to gather themselves and create their first opportunity in the 15th minute after a neat team move resulted in Harry Brooke’s shot deflecting over the crossbar.
Moments later, Doyle tested his sights with his first free-kick of the afternoon that needed to be tipped over by Joe Rose.
As the rain began to pour down the game mellowed slightly with possession changing hands, before the hosts found a period of control just after the half hour mark.
Christos Tzolis went close as he found room on the left wing to cut inside and shoot, with his effort deflecting wide.
An even better chance followed a minute later as Ollie Wright did well to stop a low shot from Jonathan Rowe and push the ball away to safety.
Saints weathered the storm and soon had a chance for a third as Ballard and Doyle again entered a crowded penalty area, with the latter somehow wriggling free before his low effort was saved.
The third goal did come soon after though, as Amo-Ameyaw produced a moment of magic in limited space to curl a shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area and extend the advantage.
There was still time for a further chance for each side at the end of the half as Ballard saw a one-on-one chance smothered before Abu Kamara tested Wright who was alert to save once again.
The hosts came out for the second half with a point to prove in front of their own crowd and started quickly to pull a goal back inside three minutes; Bradley Hills rose to head home from a well delivered corner.
There was an instant response to the fightback, however, as Doyle silenced the support again with a trademark free-kick.
After going close in the first half, the midfielder stepped up from 25 yards to fire a right-footed shot over the wall and into the bottom left corner to restore the three-goal advantage.
Amo-Ameyaw almost added a second for himself as a wayward goalkeeping clearance fell his way but his shot from distance dropped just wide with Rose scrambling to recover.
Norwich did pull another goal back in the 74th minute as Ken Aboh converted a free header from another corner.
Saints continued to search for more, knowing that goal difference could play a part in their final standings, as substitutes Princewill Ehibhatiomhan and Sam Bellis combined with the latter’s shot well saved.
A late chance was spurned by Norwich as Rowe glanced a diving header just wide with five minutes to go before one final flourish from the ruthless visitors.
Ballard released Amo-Ameyaw after a well-worked move that ended in the winger drilling a low shot across goal into the far corner.
The relentless performance sealed Saints’ second place finish in the league as Leeds secured a win over Middlesbrough elsewhere, meaning only a defeat in their final game would hand the title to Saints next Friday.
Norwich City: Joe Rose, Brad Hills, Jaden Warner (c), Lewis Shipley, Regan Riley (Sean Stewart 90), Benjamin Watt (Trialist 56), Harry Brooke (Kenneth Aboh 71), Joe Duffy (Finley Welch 56), Christos Tzolis, Jonathan Rowe (Kenny Coker), Abu Kamara.
Goals: Hills, Aboh
Southampton: Ollie Wright, Matthew Carson, Lewis Payne, Jayden Meghoma, Oliver Lancashire, Jay Robinson (Sam Bellis 77), Samuel Amo-Ameyaw, Alex Iwumene (Joshua Squires 39), Cameron Bragg (Princewill Ehibhationham 80), Kamari Doyle (c), Dominic Ballard.
Unused subs: Matthew Hall, Tommy Dobson-Ventura.
Goals: Ballard, Kamari Doyle (2), Amo-Ameyaw (2).