B Team Report: Saints topple the leaders


Goals from Dom Ballard and Kazeem Olaigbe secured a superb win for youthful Saints over Premier League 2 leaders Fulham at Snows Stadium.

Fulham enjoyed the better of the first half, keeping possession well but unable to profit due to the persistent Saints pressure.

This tide switched during the second 45, Saints responsible for the better chances before profiting in the 71st minute. Dom Ballard bursting through one-on-one before delightfully chipping over the onrushing keeper to take the lead.

The Cottagers had to profit from a set piece to level the scores. Jean-Pierre Tiehi beating Ollie Wright to the header to equalise five minutes later.

Despite Fulham turning up the heat in the closing moments, Saints remained in the game and soon grabbed a second.

A superb through ball from Luke Pearce feeding the prolific Kazeem Olaigbe, who made no mistake with just two minutes to go.

Saints once again went with a youthful eleven, Dynel Simeu missing out through suspension meaning Ethan Burnett and Jem Hewlett started at centre-back.

High-flying Fulham added yet more firepower to their ranks for Monday night’s trip. Winger Sylvester Jasper returning to the Cottagers for his first game since a successful Colchester United loan spell.

Dave Horseman’s opposite number at Snows Stadium was former Southampton boss Steven Wigley, who managed the club in 2004.

It was Fulham who had the game’s first shot on target after an even opening 11 minutes. Jasper bringing the ball down on the edge of the box before firing a low shot towards goal which Wright collected comfortably.

The visitors had an even greater chance on 23 minutes, the ball falling to captain Sonnie Hilton inside the box who drilled his shot wide of the far post with a first-time effort.

With the half hour mark coming and going the game continued to struggle to spark into life.

Fulham enjoyed the majority of possession, but Saints’ press made it difficult for them to break through.

With three minutes to go before the break the Cottagers really should’ve been ahead.

A neat passing move found its way to an unmarked Hilton at the back post who, from six yards out, couldn’t find the target as he shot cleared the crossbar. A let off for Saints.

But the final chance of the half would fall to the hosts. A quick break started by Jayden Smith, who found the direct run of Kamari Doyle.

The ball then made its way to Dom Ballard, who got in behind the defence but could only direct his shot straight at keeper Luca Ashby-Hammond.

Saints were forced into a switch at the break. Young full-back Sonnie Davis slotting in at centre back for Ethan Burnett who picked up an injury.

The hosts then went close via a clever set-piece routine. Doyle firing the ball inbehind to the run of Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo, who just couldn’t connect to the pass ahead of Ashby-Hammond.

But Horseman’s side were dealt another injury blow just five minutes into the second half, Jack Turner coming off with an injury making way for Cam Bragg.

This didn’t seem to dampen the ambition. Ballard winning possession in midfield before playing through Doyle who found space in behind, the ball eventually rebounding into the path of Davis whose effort was cleared off the line by Idris Odutayo.

The pressure kept coming from Saints, Doyle the next to test his luck after a superb solo run. Easy pickings in the end of the Fulham keeper.

64 minutes gone and the second half remained in the home side’s favour. Kazeem Olaigbe springing into life with a tricky run through midfield, the ball eventually finding substitute Bragg on the edge of the box whose low shot deflected wide.

Minutes later a long ball over the top set Smith through, who cut inside and hit a fierce shot at Ashby-Hammond which the Fulham keeper did well to collect at the second attempt.

The Cottagers finally sprung into life via a counter soon after. Kieron Bowie’s last chance of the game before being substituted falling inside the six-yard box as Wright dealt with the one-on-one superbly well to tip the ball over.

Seconds later came another fine Wright save, this time with his feet to deny a cross-goal shot from Ollie O’Neil as Fulham began to come to life.

But once again Saints were undeterred by the league leaders, taking the lead with just under 20 minutes to go.

A long ball from deep broke the defence, sending Ballard through on goal with Odutayo alongside him for company.

The young forward kept his cool, chipping the ball over the onrushing Ashby-Hammond to give his side the lead.

Saints weren’t in front for long, however, as the visitors equalled the scores again via a corner kick.

Substitute Tiehi rising highest and beating Wright, who called for a foul, to the ball and levelling the scores on 76 minutes.

Momentum then began to swing back in favour of Fulham, who tested Wright on three occasions in quick succession. All dealt with by the Saints keeper who was having a fine night.

With time ticking down Saints continued to hold firm, the fight and spirit from the young side on show clear for everyone to see at Snows Stadium.

Then, with two minutes to go, the hosts took the lead once again.

Substitute Pearce timed his pass to perfection, feeding Olaigbe who finished across the keeper superbly.

Fulham offered little following this, as Saints held on superb win at Snows Stadium.

Next up is a chance to watch Saints B for FREE at St Mary’s Stadium, with Middlesbrough visiting on Sunday.