Southampton’s B team secured an impressive victory over Aston Villa in Premier League 2 on Saturday, despite being reduced to ten men after just 27 minutes.
Having just returned from injury and featuring for the first time since July, Kamari Doyle made his presence known almost instantly at Snows Stadium, opening the scoring upon12 minutes.
Luke Pearce was on hand to double Saints’ advantage, with another bit of lovely individual play ensuring Saints had a two goal lead at the break.
Dave Horseman made four changes to the starting XI that suffered a narrow defeat to Exeter City in the Papa Johns Trophy in midweek. Ollie Wright replaced Matt Hall in between the sticks, while Ryan Finnigan, Thierry Small and Kamari Doyle all came in in place of Cameron Bragg, Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo and Dom Ballard.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky when the action commenced in SO40, with Aston Villa getting the first-half underway after both sets of players took the knee to mark No Room for Racism weekend.
It was an even opening ten minutes, with both sides looking to establish an advantage early on.
Some nice link-up play between Jack Turner and Sam Bellis on the right flank provided the first real opportunity for Saints, but Bellis’ cross-goal shot from the near post was comfortably caught by James Wright in the oppositions goal.
It didn’t take long for the deadlock to be broken, though, with Kamari Doyle finding himself in space before releasing a low shot into the bottom left corner to give Saints an early advantage.
Villa looked to hit the counter immediately, with a free-kick on the edge of the box and a corner providing an opportunity for them to press through the set-piece. While Arjan Raikhy tried his luck in front of goal, it went straight into the hands of Ollie Wright.
Saints did make a number of attacking moves as the first half progressed but failed to deliver in the final third to add to their goal scoring tally.
Thierry Small, who returned for a one-off appearance from his loan at Port Vale, looked increasingly threatening on the attack for Saints, making dizzying runs in and around the area.
As Villa looked to find the equaliser, a challenge from Turner on Declan Frith resulted in a free-kick 25-yard-out from goal. A left footed shot from Frith as he aimed straight for goal, but his effort flew over the crossbar.
Disappointment for Saints followed, as a contentious straight red card for Nico Lawrence saw Horseman’s side reduced to ten men after just 27 minutes.
Frith again the man behind the dead ball, he looks to bend it into the corner, but it went behind for a Saints goal kick.
Reduced to ten men, Saints were forced to switch up the formation with Ryan Finnigan moving into centre back as Sam Bellis dropped back to centre midfield.
Undeterred by the decision, Saints continued to press and search for a decisive second goal in front of the fans at Snows Stadium.
A dancing run from Samuel Amo-Ameyaw showed his finesse on the ball, with him then releasing a cross into the area. While his attempt escaped the target, it indicated the start of a promising spell for Horseman’s men.
Lovely play from Saints in the build-up, Lewis Payne tried his luck from a tight angle, though his shot bounced wide of the far post and behind for a goal kick.
The second goal soon followed, with some excellent individual play from Luke Pearce as he dribbled the ball towards goal before firing a low, left-footed shot into the bottom left-hand corner, evading Wright.
With the first-half drawing to a close, a late challenge from Bellis saw the visitors with an opening to pull one back. Just outside the area on the right-hand side, Raikhy’s delivery was cleared by the Saints defence but only as far as Edward Rowe, who launched a shot well over the crossbar.
A much quieter start to the second half, with neither team able to find a breakthrough in the opening ten minutes.
A poorly conceded corner as Saints fumbled the ball inside their own area, Frith delivered into attempted target Revan, but the Saints defence did enough to clear.
The first of many set-pieces for Villa, who failed to monopolise on their opportunities from the dead ball, with the Saints defence always doing enough to clear.
Some excellent play between Jack Turner and Luke Pearce down the right flank saw a real opportunity for the Saints before a challenge from Kerr Smith resulted in a dangerous free kick on the edge of the area.
With the hour mark approaching, a positive spell from the visitors was in full swing as they looked to make a comeback on the south coast. A right footed shot from Frith was expertly blocked by Wright, who got down low to make a vital clearance with his legs at the near post – with the ball spinning out for another Villa corner.
Frith was once again at the corner flag for the visitors, with his cross meeting Rowe before another fantastic save from Wright to deny them.
Saints’ best opportunity of the second half then followed, with the keeper away from his goal Pearce made the run on the counter before laying in Small on the left flank. Looking to take advantage of Wright outside of his area, he released a fortuitous shot which ultimately fired over the bar.
With the attacking threat contained in the second-half, Horseman opten to freshen up the Saints attack with Jimmy Jay Morgan and Dom Ballard introduced in place of Kamari Doyle and Samuel Amo-Ameyaw upon 70 minutes.
Ballard, who has been on an excellent goal scoring streak of late, displayed his prowess with the ball as he escaped a barrage of attacks to keep possession before releasing Pearce down the right, with his effort ricocheting off the side netting.
With just over ten minutes remaining, another change came for Saints as Cameron Bragg was brought on in place of goal scorer Luke Pearce to inject some pace into the match late on in the game.
With four minutes of additional time indicated after a somewhat mundane second half in comparison to the first, Ruben Shakpoke made a last-ditch attempt to get Villa back into the game as he made a run into the area, with Wright doing enough to get down and recover the ball.
It was Saints who had the last real opportunity in front of goal, with Morgan making a nice run into the area, beating his man before his shot bounced wide of the far post,.
Horseman’s side now travel for a local derby at Fratton Park in the Hampshire Cup on Tuesday.