Southampton's B team claimed an impressive victory over in-form Nottingham Forest at St Mary's.
With the fans making their voices heard at St Mary's, Jayden Smith gave Saints a deserved lead shortly before the break, tapping in Kazeem Olaigbe’s cross after a strong first half performance from the hosts.
It was a smart move from Olaigbe, who regained possession for Saints after a slip up from the Forest defence before charging down the left flank and sending the ball across the face of goal for Smith to seamlessly convert.
The goals came thick and fast in the second half, with Olaigbe and Luke Pearce both finding the net within the first ten minutes of the restart.
It wasn't plain sailing for Saints, though, as they had to resist a second-half comeback from Forest. Substitute Baba Fernandes was the first to find the back of the net for the visitors just three minutes after Saints' third before Ateef Konaté curled a delightful ball into the bottom right hand corner.
With the clock winding down and the result in the balance, it was down to Pearce to seal proceedings at St Mary's as a fabulous solo effort saw him loop the ball over Nicky Hogarth and into the back of the net.
Dave Horseman made three changes to the side that fell to a narrow defeat against Birmingham City last time out. Jayden Smith and Diamond Edwards entered the starting 11, with Will Smallbone also making his return to B team action at St Mary’s.
It was Saints that started the more dominant of the two sides, with Olaigbe making an impressive run before releasing Edwards on the right flank. Some smart play ensued between the two before the ball fell to Smallbone on the edge of the area, launching a shot in but failing to take the early advantage.
Smallbone’s experience was a welcome addition for Horseman’s side, often leading the charge from midfield to create some of Saints’ best chances in the opening passages of play.
Reluctant to give Forest an opening, the Saints eleven did well to consistently maintain pressure, regaining possession frequently.
Olaigbe was the first to register a shot on target at St Mary’s as he made a dizzying run down the centre of the pitch before releasing his low, bouncing shot towards goal. Forcing Hogarth to make a dive to his left, the ball was punched behind for a Saints corner.
A delightful passage of attacking play came for Saints 15 minutes into the game, culminating in a wonderful cross from Smallbone into Smith inside the area but his effort failed to threaten Hogarth, bouncing wide of the far post.
Saints relentless on the attack, another opportunity fell to the feet of Olaigbe who saw his shot deflected behind by Billy Fewster.
It took 30 minutes for the visitors to threaten the Saints defence, with Konaté making a superb run down the left flank and into the box before seeing his shot deflected behind for a corner.
Moments later, Pearce found himself in space at the other end of the pitch. Looping the ball over the keeper, Donnelly did enough to get back and clear.
In a move mirroring the one five minutes earlier, Konaté made another electric run into the area. With more space to manouvere, he looked to seize the opportunity but the tight angle restricted him, seeing his shot fire over Wright’s crossbar.
As the opening half drew to a close Forest continued to work their way into the game. An Ollie Hammond corner fell perfectly for Donnelly who thumped a header towards goal but the ball returned to the gloves of Ollie Wright.
Just as Forest looked to be finding their feet, Saints finally took the advantage at St Mary’s. Olaigbe, who had been looking increasingly threatening on the attack, sent the ball in across the face of goal with Smith needing just the slightest touch to give Saints the advantage shortly before the break.
Horseman's side started the second half the same way they did the first, with an electric energy and eager to add to their advantage. Within seconds of play resuming, Edwards forced Hogarth into a diving save as he sent a powerful strike from the edge of the area.
It didn’t take long for Saints to double their lead, with Thierry Small making a fine run down the left flank before crossing the ball into an awaiting Olaigbe. Making it look effortless, the 19-year-old made no error in beating Hogarth and finding the back of the net.
With Saints firmly in control, Luke Pearce looked to get in on the action, dancing his way into the area before releasing in close range of the Forest keeper.
Pearce’s time would soon come, though, as he extended Saints lead after converting Lewis Payne’s cross in the 53rd minute.
An instant retaliation ensued from the visitors, with half-time substitute Baba Fernandes finding the back of the net to reduce the deficit just three minutes later.
With the competition heating up and buoyed by the goal, Forest continued to apply pressure to the Saints defence. Fernandes almost got his second as he forced Wright into a save to send the ball behind for a corner.
Pressure mounting, the visitors found their second goal of the contest. A fabulous curling shot from Konaté evaded Wright and landed perfectly in the bottom right-hand corner.
Resistant to the Forest comeback, Saints looked to extend their advantage as substitute Sam Bellis forced a Hogarth save with a powerful attack on goal. The ball then fell for Pearce on the rebound but the Forest defence did enough to clear.
With five minutes left to play, Saints nearly found themselves with a two goal advantage again as Small pulled a lovely ball across goal to an awaiting Pearce but the ball skipped past him and went behind for a Forest goal kick.
With the clock winding down, Saints remained relentless on the attack until the very last minute. A fabulous solo effort from Luke Pearce saw him charge down the centre of the pitch coming head-to-head with Hogarth. Looping the ball over the Forest keeper, Pearce found the net for the second time of the afternoon and wrapped up proceedings at St Mary's.
Saints next face Aston Villa on Friday 11th March.