Thierry Small's goal with just over ten minutes to go ensure Southampton's B team ended the Premier League 2 season on a high at St Mary's Stadium.
It was a game that failed to get going for the most part, meaning a moment of calmness would ultimately seal the result for either side.
Thierry Small produced just that for Saints on 79 minutes, coolly slotting his first-timed shot into the bottom corner with the confidence of an out-and-out striker.
The Saints outfit starting at St Mary’s provided a real mix of youth and experience; Under-18s regulars Rylee Wright and Fedel Ross-Lang accompanied by keeper Alex McCarthy, who continued his injury comeback journey.
After an end-to-end opening few minutes it was Sunderland who had the game’s opening chance, the ball cut back to Tom Scott who should’ve done better with his first-timed shot from just inside the box.
Saints then had a glorious chance of their own as Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo burst down the right flank. The quick full-back then produced a low ball across the floor, which Wright could only touch wide at the back post on ten minutes.
Despite the fast start the remaining minutes proved fairly monotonous, with both sides enjoying spells of possession but unable to truly test either goalkeeper.
Olly Lancashire had a glancing header just past the half hour mark, which was well held by Sunderland keeper Jacob Carney.
The Mackems’ next sighter came on 40 minutes, Caden Kelly this time flashing a shot over from close range after a ball in from the left side.
This chance seemed to liven up the final five minutes of the half. Luke Pearce clearly feeling confident off the back of a goal for the Under-18s on Saturday hitting an effort from range which Carney did well to tip over the bar.
It was said conviction which then set up the best chance of the game so far on minute 43, the striker turning inside the box before laying off skipper Jack Turner, who couldn’t find the bottom corner from a brilliant opening.
The game’s opening chance of the second 45 also fell to Turner, this time the Saints captain flicking a header wide of the far on 51 minutes after a superb Otseh-Taiwo cross.
Sunderland’s Harrison Sohna then attempted a curled shot into the top right corner, which deflected over much to the relief of the Saints fans in attendance.
McCarthy was then called into action for the first time of the afternoon, making a superb double save to deny two of Sunderland’s trialists in quick succession.
Another opening came and this time it fell to the hosts, orchestrated by Wright on the flank who produced a superb turn to beat two of his men.
The youngster then found a low ball into Jayden Smith inside the box, who could only strike over with little time on the ball.
Despite a flurry of chances in the half’s opening 15 minutes the game then lost its intensity once again. Neither side really testing their counterparts in an attacking sense.
This all changed on 79 minutes, as Small gave Saints the lead with a neat finish into the bottom corner.
The ball came in from the right-hand-side along the floor and the Saints full-back was ready and waiting to finish first-time into the bottom corner in front of a jubilant St Mary’s crowd.
It was then about seeing out the game, and the 2021/22 Premier League 2 season, for Saints, which is exactly what they did.
Sunderland had chances during the 90 but failed to take them as the host proved the more clinical.
Ultimately it’s been a season of progression for Dave Horseman’s side, who just missed out on the play-offs after a surge in results since November.