Southampton's B team conceded two late goals in a hard-fought, 3-1 loss to EFL League One outfit Wycombe Wanderers at Staplewood, as they continued their pre-season preparations.
Wycombe struck first through Joe Jacobson’s penalty after striker Sam Vokes was tripped by Dynel Simeu in the box on 28 minutes. However, Southampton showed resilience in their response, going level nine minutes later through Thierry Small’s low effort.
The second 45 was well contested, but two late headers from winger Garath McCleary and former Saints defender Ryan Tafazolli respectively ensured the visitors a 3-1 win on the day.
After a strong start, the first opportunity of the game fell the way of Wycombe, McCleary using his tricky feet to create space down Southampton’s right flank before curling in a wicked cross towards Sam Vokes, whose header fell just wide of Willy Caballero’s near post.
Moments later and Southampton found that same side breached again, Daryl Horgan reaching the by-line before firing a low cross toward Vokes. This time the striker failed to make any meaningful contact, but the warning signs were nonetheless present.
Considering the aggression Wycombe showed out of the blocks, Southampton did well to compose themselves and began to grow into the game beyond the fifth minute, Lewis Payne and Kegs Chauke combining regularly to retain crucial possession in midfield.
Following some sloppy defensive play from the visitors in the sixth minute, Payne stole in to intercept Jacobson’s loose pass in midfield, driving forward before spreading the ball wide to Will Ferry. The youngster’s subsequent cross perhaps would have made its way into the far corner, but Tafazolli’s late recovery header ensured the game remained goalless.
Relishing in their renewed confidence, Saints starlet Dominic Ballard would be the next to go close, working well with Payne down the left flank before marginally dragging his left-footed effort from a difficult angle wide of the mark.
Dave Horseman’s men looked to be the team on top heading towards the half-hour mark, but, as you so often see in football, under-fire Wycombe would the ones to pounce first.
Vokes showed fine strength and composure to hold off the challenge of Simeu while controlling a fired pass into his feet, but Southampton’s defender was a little too eager to steal back possession, inadvertently sending the striker to ground after kicking his right heel.
Jacobson shouldered the responsibility from the spot, opting to go straight down the middle as Caballero dived left.
Gareth Ainsworth’s team, however, wouldn’t hold the lead for long, Wycombe’s indecisiveness allowing Small to steal in and stab a powerful shot into the bottom corner on 37 minutes. A deserved equaliser for those in red and white.
The score would stay level going into the break, but it was the visitors who looked destined to retake the lead in the 54th minute, as Vokes, who was enjoying a fine game, threaded a ball through the heart of the Southampton’s defence and into the path of McCleary, with the winger going eye-to-eye with Caballero before striking his right-footed effort wide of the Argentine’s left post.
Nearly 20 minutes later and Saints’ 40-year-old stopper would be called into action again, this time spreading his body well to stop Vokes’s first-time effort from just outside the box shortly after substitute Ali Al-Hamadi’s curling effort struck the post.
Between the 74th and 90th minutes, Caballero would continue to be a busy man, saving well from both Al-Hamadi and Horgan before nearly being caught by Vokes on the ball. Thankfully for the goalkeeper, Josh Scowen’s subsequent effort from 25 yards flew just wide of his briefly unoccupied goal.
Despite Southampton’s respectable performance, Wycombe ended the game the stronger of the two sides, retaking the lead through McCleary in the 86th minute, the Jamaican meeting David Wheeler’s cross and planting his header firmly into Caballero’s left corner.
In the dying seconds the blues struck for a third and final time, Tafazolli’s towering header from a corner rustling the same portion of the net as McCleary’s did moments before, ensuring his side a 3-1 victory on the day.