Southampton's B team produced an outstanding performance in their penultimate pre-season friendly, brushing aside Watford’s Under-23s 4-0 at Staplewood.
Saints refused to take their foot off the accelerator in the first half, racing into a three-goal advantage courtesy of Dom Ballard’s early brace and Diamond Edwards’s goal in the 23rd minute.
With the game already won, the second period didn’t prove quite as fruitful, but Jimmy-Jay Morgan’s late strike added the cherry on top of a fine display.
Southampton’s first opportunity was earned through the hard work of Edwards after just a couple of minutes, the youngster showing tenacity to win the ball in midfield, allowing Kami Doyle to thread his pass into the path of Ballard, the striker initially beating goalkeeper Myles Roberts before being thwarted by the recovery challenge of Sam Dreyer.
With the home side piling on early pressure, Doyle would let fly himself on nine minutes, his low, left-footed effort from just outside the area forcing Roberts into an impressive stop.
With Watford already against the ropes, Dave Horseman’s side continued their attacking barrage, Sam Bellis on hand to feed Doyle clean through down the left flank, the attacker only denied by the last-ditch sliding tackle of Ryan Andrews.
Considering Saints’ early dominance, it seemed only a matter of time before they took the lead, and it came swiftly on 14 minutes courtesy of Ballard’s powerful strike.
The young striker capitalised on left-back James Morris’s hesitation to clear the ball, stealing possession before driving forward and smashing his right-footed effort from a tight angle beyond Roberts, who stood no chance given the pace of the shot.
Seven minutes later and the lead would be doubled, Doyle’s deep corner nodded back across goal at the far post and onto the head of a grateful Ballard, who from a couple of yards was never going to miss his second of the afternoon.
As the confidence flowed, so did the goals, Edwards the next to add his name to the scoresheet on 23 minutes, tricking his way inside from the right flank before reversing a low, left-footed effort past Watford’s helpless goalkeeper who remained rooted to the spot.
Only a quarter of the way through the game and already three goals down, damage control was surely the objective for Watford at this point.
However, their change in mentality did little to stop the home side's offensive onslaught, Bellis’s driven effort well stopped in the 39th minute to delay Southampton’s fourth of the afternoon, before Edwards skimmed the crossbar with a long-distance thunderbolt two minutes later.
That would be all for the first half, but the introduction of fresh Saints legs for the second justified the likelihood of further goals.
That being said, Jack Bycroft was called into action early in the half to deny the low effort of Andrews, showing fine reflexes to steer the ball clear with his legs as the visitors looked to chip away at their deficit.
Having survived the early scare, normal service would seemingly be resumed thereafter, Doyle whipping an accurate ball onto the head of Ballard, whose effort was cleverly guided toward Roberts’s top-right corner, with the keeper showing fine reach to claw it away.
With the scoreline unchanged, Watford began to knuckle down as the half grew older, going painfully close to grabbing a goal back in the 72nd minute through the right foot of striker Jack Grieves, whose effort from a difficult angle whizzed across the body of Bycroft and slammed against the inside of his far post.
Seven minutes later and Southampton found their other post rattled, this time by Dapo Mebude, as the winger feinted inside from the left wing before curling a sumptuous effort toward goal, which was inches away from hitting the target.
It was a response full of heart and endeavour from the away side, which made Southampton’s fourth and final goal in the 85th minute a difficult pill to swallow for them.
Substitute Morgan would be the man responsible, positioning himself well to tap home Jake Vokins’s low cross from the left, ruthlessly sealing a deserved 4-0 victory for his side on the day.