B Team Report: Strong Saints side beat Boro


An experienced Southampton B side took all three points against Middlesbrough Under-21s with an 8-1 victory in Premier League 2.

Sékou Mara scored four goals as Theo Walcott grabbed a hat-trick of his own in a dominant display by a strong Saints side.

Several first team players were given important minutes, as Roméo Lavia made his return to action in midfield.

With the score already 5-1 at half time, young defender Lewis Payne added his name to the scoresheet in the second half as Saints eventually hit eight past their visitors.

It was a strong Southampton side that took to Staplewood Campus for the first home Premier League 2 game in three weeks, utilising the opportunity to give valuable minutes to a handful of first team players.

Most notably, Lavia started in the heart of midfield for his first game in two months since picking up an injury against Chelsea in August.

Sam Edozie, Sékou Mara, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Juan Larios, Moussa Djenepo, Theo Walcott and Alex McCarthy were the other names handed a start.

With plenty of experience on show, Saints were on top from the first minute but it was a B Team regular who forged the first opportunity.

Lewis Payne surged down the right wing, but his cross was just behind Walcott’s darting run.

The pair combined again moments later to greater effect, as Southampton opened the scoring five minutes in.

Lavia, on his return to action, released Payne on the right wing again - the full back beat his man and had his shot parried into the path of Walcott who had the easiest task to tap home.

Saints’ first half goals came at regular intervals in a controlled display, as Mara was next to score.

The striker started the move, switching the play to Djenepo who did well to win a penalty after a mazy run and series of stepovers.

Mara stepped up and duly dispatched from the spot, sending Nathan Fisher the wrong way as he passed the ball into the bottom left corner.

The French forward had his second, and Saints’ third, less than ten minutes later.

Edozie was the provider this time, shrugging off a defender as he drove into the penalty area on the right wing before cutting the ball back for Mara to slot home.

Another ten minutes of composed, controlled play passed before Saints pounced once more and Mara completed a first half hat-trick.

After being put through on goal by Larios, Mara rounded Fisher’s dive and tapped the ball into the empty net.

Middlesbrough almost found a goal back from a set piece as the half drew to its conclusion, but Callum Kavanagh’s effort was just over the crossbar.

Walcott had a chance to add his second goal of the afternoon as he cut in from the left, but his shot from the top corner of the box was deflected out for a corner.

As the first half ticked into eight minutes of stoppage time, Walcott did get his second, and Saints’ fifth, goal of the game.

He broke through the defence and raced towards goal one-on-one before powering the ball past Fisher.

The first half action wasn’t over yet, however, as ‘Boro did find a consolation goal before the break.

Kavanagh was played through one-on-one, not too dissimilar Walcott’s prior finish, and dispatched to put his name on the scoresheet.

With changes made at the break the first half was slightly more balanced, but Saints remained on top for large spells.

Larios almost got in on the act in the 49th minute as the ball fell to him on the edge of the area from a corner, but his driven shot was just wide of the post.

Sam Bellis, a first half sub for Edozie who was able to walk off as a precautionary measure, was next to go close from Saints.

A loose ball in the area arrived at Bellis' feet from a corner, but his snapshot was saved.

On the hour mark, Payne then added his name to the scoresheet with a deserved goal of his own.

The attacking full back raced into the area and shot across goal, netting Saints’ sixth with a composed finish.

The visitors spurned a big chance of their own in the 70th minute, but Kavanagh was unable to score from close range after Sonny Finch found him waiting at the far post.

With the game seeming to phase out, a late flurry of action extended the lead even further in the final minutes.

Walcott had a hat-trick of his own as he stepped up to curl an excellent free-kick into the corner from the edge of the area before turning provider himself.

Saints’ number nine on the day left a handful of Middlesbrough defenders in his wake with a run all the way to the byline, cutting the ball back for Mara to volley home with the final kick of the game.

Three points stayed in Hampshire as a dominant display helped Southampton B leapfrog their opponents in the table.