Southampton's youngsters continued their bright start to the 2022/23 Premier League 2 campaign with a 1-1 draw against Norwich on Friday night.
Warming up as the first half developed, Saints broke the deadlock just past the half-hour mark when Jake Vokins completed a move of high quality to make the difference at the interval.
In a high tempo showing at Snows Stadium, Dom Ballard almost rounded off a dream week but for the woodwork, before the hosts were pegged back late on.
Abu Kamara was perfectly placed to head home on 81 minutes, forcing both sides to settle for a share of the spoils with their unbeaten starts intact.
Saints made three changes from the side that won at Stoke a week ago, with Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo and Luke Pearce starting in place of Lewis Payne and Ballard, after their impressive first team debuts in midweek.
In a final switch, Ryan Finnigan took the spot of Cam Bragg in the middle of the park as Dave Horseman made the most of the impressive squad depth at his disposal.
With both sides boasting unbeaten records heading into the Friday night encounter, it was no surprise to see an evenly contested opening 10 minutes.
Sam Bellis registered the game’s first attempt on goal when his deflected strike fell into the arms of Dylan Berry, while at the other end Ollie Wright was alert to tip Kamara’s looping effort from the edge of the box over the bar.
As the sun dipped at Snows Stadium Saints looked to offer up some heat in front of goal, with an opener close to coming on 18 minutes.
A clever reverse ball from Diamond Edwards set Pearce into space in the box, but his low drive from an acute angle was pushed behind for a corner by Berry.
Although the chance was followed by a quiet spell in front of goal, the Canaries began to surrender both territory and possession, allowing the hosts to grow in confidence.
After Jimmy-Jay Morgan had teased at breaking the deadlock with a wayward strike from 20 yards, the attacker had more success as a provider on 34 minutes.
Kick-starting a neat inter-change with Vokins, Morgan released the full-back inside the box with the 22-year-old showing great composure to dummy past a Norwich defender before firing past Berry.
Remaining at the heart of the action, Vokins was perfectly placed inside his own box just minutes later, hacking off of the line after Wright had been beaten to an in-swinging corner.
Making amends for that error in judgement, Wright preserved Saints’ lead on the stroke of half time by keeping out Tyrese Omotoye’s low shot with his legs, ensuring it was to be a positive opening 45 minutes for Horseman’s side.
As the division’s joint-top scorers alongside Middlesbrough, Saints attacked the second half looking to extend their slender advantage.
After Finnigan tested Berry with a low drive from 20 yards, firepower was introduced from the bench in the form of Ballard, who entered the field with four goals in three games and on a high after netting on his senior debut in the Carabao Cup just three days prior.
The switch was in response to an agonisingly close attempt from Norwich’s Kamara, who whistled a curling attempt just inches wide of the top corner after cleverly cutting inside Dynel Simeu.
With the importance of the next goal evident, the Norfolk outfit raised the tempo as the game crept past the hour-mark, with Tom Dickson-Peters inches away from connecting with a dangerous cross from the left when unmarked in the middle.
However, having started to threaten, the visitors almost conceded a disastrous second when Ballard – who had sprinted 40 yards – charged down Berry’s attempted clearance, with the Norwich stopper saved his blushed by the base of the post.
Much like Wright responded to a mistake in the first half by making a vital stop, the Canaries stopper did the same on 70 minutes, standing tall to parry away Morgan’s shot from close range.
The keeper’s efforts were rewarded as the game ticked into the final 10 minutes, when Joe Duffy’s ball back across goal was headed back where it came and into the far corner by Kamara.
In response, Saints piled on the pressure in the closing stages, but a winner was not to be found as two early pace-setters met at Snows Stadium.