B Team Report: Saints finish on a high


Southampton's youngsters thrashed League Two side Crawley Town away from home, ending their Papa John's Trophy campaign on an almighty high.

After withstanding a great deal of pressure Saints took the lead on 28 minutes, Kazeem Olaigbe amongst the goals again finding the bottom corner after impressive work by Thierry Small.

Saints made it two five minutes shy of the break, a counter led by Caleb Watts and finished off by a grateful Mitchell inside the box.

Crawley’s pressure continued shortly after the break, but it was Saints who once more proved more clinical. Olaigbe with his second of the game from close range on 58 minutes after Lewis Payne’s burst into the box.

The sealer could’ve been the pick of the bunch, Small adding to his assist two minutes from time with a superb finish from the tightest of angles.

Crawley fielded a mixture of youth and experience; amongst the were first team regulars Tony Craig and Tom Dallison in defence with Sam Ashford and Jack Payne further ahead.

On the bench saw a return for Reece Grego-Cox, his first involvement for over 600 games.

For Saints it was a change in shape, reverting to a 4-2-2-2 formation as Ramello Mitchell partnered Olaigbe up top.

With Dynel Simeu missing out through suspension, Olly Lancashire returned to the side alongside Dare Olufunwa in the heart of defence.

In front of over 300 fans, including a strong Southampton travelling contingent in the far corner, the visitors got the game under way.

The opening chance fell to the hosts and was one they probably should’ve done better with.

David Rodari on the end of Archie Davies’ low cross inside the box but firing his first-time effort straight over on six minutes.

Crawley went on to enjoy the better of the first 15 minutes as Dave Horseman’s side struggled to retain possession for any real period under constant pressure from the hosts.

Payne, who used to ply his trade at fellow Hampshire club Eastleigh in the National League, stepped over a free kick on 17 minutes, which fell to feet of Tyler Frost whose shot was blocked.

Saints’ first effort came on the break a minute later; Olaigbe carrying the ball through midfield before feeding Mitchell, who forced keeper Blondy Nna Noukeu, on only his second start for the club, into a fingertip save.

After a period of strong results in Premier League 2 the first 20 minutes of Saints return to Papa John’s Trophy action showed the step up in physicality for this young side. A step they were more than matching defensively during the opening stages despite the pressure.

Another Crawley chance came on 26 minutes, as Jack Powell stepped over a free kick slightly to the right of the penalty area which narrowly missed the top corner.

Saints responded in the best possible fashion two minutes later.

Small broke down the left wing with plenty of space, before cutting inside and laying the ball off to Olaigbe, who made no mistake in finding the bottom corner for his third goal in two games.

Frost led the Crawley response, finding space on the left wing and taking time to shoot, but Jack Bycroft proving equal to it.

Then came a strike from Amrit Bansal-McNulty, hitting his half-volley on the edge of the box just over the bar on 37 minutes.

But the next goal of the game fell Saints way once more. Watts fed through on goal and rounding keeper Nna Noukeu with ease, before firing across goal where Mitchell was ready and waiting to tap the ball home.

It could’ve been three on the stroke of half-time; another counter leading to a clever Watts flick with Mitchell again waiting at the back post to fire home but adjudged to be offside.

Saints started the second half much like they finished the first; a ball finding Olaigbe inside the box who fired just wide under pressure.

The hosts’ first chance came following a set-piece, Dallison rising highest by unable to find the target after the corner was recycled.

Crawley’s pressure continued. Bansal-McNulty shooting from range and Bycroft doing well to punch clear, before Sam Ashford was left unmarked behind the Saints backline but couldn’t connect to the through ball.

But once more Horseman’s side proved more clinical, Olaigbe making amends for that early second half miss by firing home triumphantly inside the six-yard box, after a strong run by Payne on the right flank.

That third goal took any potential sting out of the Crawley attack, despite Grego-Cox’s introduction lifting the crowd on 64 minutes.

Saints did well to control the game despite Crawley holding most of the ball, dealing with every attack that came at them and sitting comfortably at 3-0.

The points were sealed two minutes from time where the impressive Small found the far corner with a superb finish from the tightest of angles. Three goals in three games for the youngster.

Few will have had this down as a clear Southampton win at the beginning of the night but that’s exactly how it turned out.

Despite Crawley’s pressure at times the young visiting defence stood strong, proving the more dangerous of the two sides at the other end of the field.

It’s now five successive wins for Saints, keeping five clean sheets in that time too against strong opposition.

The team will look to continue that run next time out away at Sunderland in Premier League 2 on Sunday.