Southampton B team’s nine-game unbeaten run came to an end as they suffered a narrow defeat against Everton in the final Group F game in the PL Cup.
The visitors took an early lead through Ishé Samuels-Smith’s powerful finish, before goals from Luke Pearce and Leon Pambou turned the score around.
Everton rallied as Katia Kouyate equalised before the break and Francis Okoronkwo hit the eventual winner early in the second half.
With several of Dave Horseman’s side featuring in Saints’ FA Youth Cup triumph at Villa Park the day before, there were five changes to the side that started the previous B team fixture.
Whilst the defence remained unchanged, Pearce was joined in the forward quartet by Jake Vokins, Will Merry, and Sam Amo-Ameyaw, whilst Josh Squires entered the midfield with Olly Wright returning in goal
It was a game with little riding on it for the hosts, who had already confirmed their safe passage to the knockout stages as Group F winners, but their unbeaten record was at stake against an Everton side who knew a win would secure their progression in second place.
With that knowledge, the visitors began the game with a purpose and quickly gained the early ascendancy; Liam Higgins struck an early effort from the edge of the area that hit the side netting of Wright’s near post.
Owen Barker was next to try his luck for the Toffees, creating space with a clever flick but firing a volleyed shot well over the crossbar.
The early pressure from Everton continued, despite fleeting Saints attacks, and the opener arrived with 17 minutes on the clock.
Full-back Ishé Samuels-Smith was played in on the left wing and powered home a well-taken finish at the near post.
The deserved goal for the visitors seemed to wake up the hosts, as Horseman’s side hauled themselves level less than five minutes later.
A pass over the top set up a 50/50 battle between Pearce and Zan-Luk Leban in the Everton goal, with the Saints striker coming out the winner of a brave challenge which saw the ball trickle into the bottom corner.
The instant response turned the tide completely, and within a couple of minutes the quickfire turnaround was complete.
Pambou, on his second game back from a long-term injury, rose high to meet a wide free-kick with a powerful header that nestled into the Everton net.
The lead was almost extended on the half hour mark as Amo-Ameyaw beat his man to meet a near post corner with an inventive volley which was saved with his second attempt blocked out for a corner.
Less than a minute later, Pearce fired over the bar in a strong spell for Saints.
With the half wearing on the visitors began to force themselves back into the contest as Kouyate began to make an impact; the wide man was released on the right wing, cut into the area and hit a left footed effort that was deflected away.
On the stroke of half time, however, the winger was rewarded for his endeavour as he was alive to convert an equaliser after Wright had parried away an initial shot from Samuels-Smith.
Everton were buoyed by their leveller before the break and began the second period as they did the first with lively attacking intent.
Okoronkwo had his first sight at goal with a curling low effort from the edge of the box that was parried away.
Moments later, the striker went one better as he restored the visitors’ lead with a calm finish after cleverly wrong-footing Wright with a smart piece of skill inside the penalty area.
The end-to-end nature of the contest continued from then as both sides traded opportunities, with Amo-Ameyaw and Kouyate both cutting in from their respective wide positions and shooting narrowly wide of the post.
Pearce then had two attempts blocked either side of the hour mark before Barker shot just wide after a mazy run of his own.
Horseman’s side continued to push into the closing stages, with the best opportunity coming after a terrific run and pass across goal from Thierry Small that needed a touch from anyone for a certain equaliser.
In stoppage time, Amo-Ameyaw had the final chance as his near post shot fell the wrong side of the post.
The narrow defeat ended Saints’ nine-game unbeaten run and confirmed their only loss in the group stages, as the Toffees booked their place in the knockout stages as Group F runners-up.