PL2 Report: Blackburn 5-1 Saints


Southampton's B team suffered a heavy defeat to Blackburn Rovers in Premier League 2 on Monday afternoon.

Blackburn took an early lead at the County Ground with just five minutes on the clock as Sam Burns firing across goal to put Rovers ahead.

The second came twenty minutes later as Joe Nolan flicked the ball in from close range following a strong right-sided breakaway by the hosts.

Rovers’ fortuitous third came in the 35th minute, Burns grabbing his second of the game after deflecting Bycroft’s clearance into the Saints net.

The visitors grabbed a goal back three minutes from the break, Jayden Smith played through by Lucas Defise and producing a neat, chipped finish to give Saints a foothold.

But the hosts showed their quality in the second 45, adding a futher two goals to their score line through Sam Durrant and Louie Annesley.

Saints travelled to Lancashire with a younger squad than had been involved during the 2-2 draw with Arsenal at Snows Stadium on Friday.

The likes of Kayne Ramsay, Caleb Watts and double goalscorer Will Ferry dropped out, paving way for Defise, Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo and Seamas Keogh to make their return.

Rovers, who sat second in the Premier League 2 standings at the start of play, started the game brightly as the rain poured down.

The hosts got their reward for such a fast start after just five minutes, Burns breaking free of the Saints defence and firing a fierce effort across Jack Bycroft and into the far corner.

And the pressure didn’t stop there, Rovers kept surging forward and pegged back their young Saints opponents during the early stages.

On a stodgy pitch, which suffered as a result of the heavy rain pre-match, the visitors struggled to get their passing game going as Blackburn pressed effectively early on.

But despite the slow start Dave Horseman’s side began to get a foothold in the fixture in and around the 20-minute mark.

First came a breakaway chance for the pacey Defise, who beat his man but had his shot which looked destined for the near post blocked behind for a corner.

Next up was a strong run by Sam Bellis, who beat the offside trap but just couldn’t pull the ball back into the path of James Morris before Rovers cleared.

The hosts continued to carry threat on the break, showing to have pace on both flanks and almost doubling their lead as a result. Full-back Dan Pike slid in at the back post and forced Bycroft into a key goal line save.

Rovers’ second came on 25 minutes, another strong run down the right flank and a low ball across the box proving problematic for Saints, as Nolan eventually turned the ball home from close range.

Saints then had a combination of the crossbar and the offside flag to thank as Rovers came inches away from a third, Connor McBridge the one to hit the woodwork.

Burns was next to come close for the hosts, heading over an inch-perfect cross from inside the six-yard box.

Then came the bizarre third, Bycroft inadvertently hitting his long clearance against the back of Burns who grabbed a fortuitous second of the game in the 35th minute.

But Saints certainly didn’t give up despite the score line, grabbing a goal back just seven minutes later.

Ethan Burnett did well to reclaim possession through his pressing game in midfield, before Defise slotted through Smith who coolly clipped his effort over the keeper.

It was a benchmark for Saints, who desperately needed one with the break looming.

At the interval Horseman made a change; Keogh making way for Pascal Kpomomouh which allowed Morris to move into central midfield.

The late first-half goal and change of shape following the break seemed to lift the visitors, who went in search of the all-important next goal.

Kazeem Olaigbe continued to threaten with pace through the middle, looking to play through Bellis who was beaten to the ball by keeper Jordan Eastham.

Rovers still had their threat, however, with Bycroft doing well to save from close-range what seemed like a certain goal for Sam Durrant after some clever feet in the six-yard box.

Like many teams in recent weeks the hosts struggled to contain Olaigbe going forward, whose close control and clever feet proved a vital option for Saints going forward and won the visitors a free kick in the 58th minute.

Up stepped Olaigbe, who could only force a low save from Eastham from the edge of the penalty area.

Next up was an opportunity for Saints substitute Benni Smales-Braithwaite, who once again tested Eastham as the pressure grew from the visitors.

But as the half wore on Blackburn did well to control the Saints threat, before gradually creating more attacks of their own.

Allan Tchapchet and David Agbontohoma did well to prevent a Rovers go that would kill the game, before the hosts beat the offside trap with a well worked set-piece on 74 minutes.

A clever corner routine resulted in a ball to the back post, where Annesley was waiting to tap home for Rovers’ fourth.

From then on it was all Blackburn, as Saints found themselves pegged back in their own half with the clock slowly ticking down.

There was still time for Rovers to add a fifth, an individual goal of some beauty by Durrant in the 83rd minute.

It could have been more for the hosts but for a string of heroic blocks by the likes of Agbontohoma and Tchaptchat, alongside some superb Bycroft saves.

Ultimately the game ended with the hosts grabbing a 5-1 victory over Saints.

The opportunity to put this game behind them comes next Monday for Horseman’s side, with a trip to Manchester City.