Southampton's B team ended the 2020/21 Premier League 2 season with defeat at Everton on Friday night.
Charlie Whitaker continued his good form against Saints with a goal inside ten minutes as he cut inside from the left flank.
The second came on 22 minutes, defender Reece Welch capitalising on his return to the starting eleven with a close-range finish following a short free kick.
Everton added a third early into the second half, Whitaker heading home from a corner for his second of the evening, before the midfielder completed his hat-trick with two minutes to go.
Saints had a far more youthful outfit lining up at Stockport’s Pure Stadium than they did on Sunday at St Mary’s.
The likes of Kameron Ledwidge, James Morris and keeper Jack Bycroft all returned to the starting XI, with Jayden Smith and Sam Bellis the two up front.
Everton were without the influential Nathan Broadhead, but Whitaker remained in the side fresh off of his goal and assist last-time-out.
The game started in almost an identical fashion to the weekend’s battle between the two sides.
Inside ten minutes Whitaker cut inside from the left wing, as Broadhead had done on Sunday, before finishing into the bottom corner as the hosts took an early lead.
The response from the visitors was led by young full-back Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo, who caused the Toffees some problems down his right wing.
Just like Sunday’s game Everton’s threat remained on the break; Tom Cannon lobbing the ball over an onrushing Bycroft but unable to find the target with his second touch.
Next came an effort for Bellis, who latched onto a left-sided, low cross with an outstretched boot but it only resulted in a comfortable claim for keeper Harry Tyrer.
After an end-to-end ten minutes following the opening goal, Everton doubled the lead.
A quick free-kick found Lewis Warrington, whose cross came too close to Bycroft causing him to parry clear but only into the path of a grateful Welch, who couldn’t miss from close range.
Everton had the better of the minutes following the second goal, pushing Saints back and clearly looking to add to their early lead.
Full-back Thierry Small made a darting run into a crowded Saints box but was denied a chance to shoot as Ledwidge needed treatment.
Unsurprisingly Whitaker was also involved in the majority of the attacks, firing an effort from a tight angle over in the 32nd minute.
Next came a shot for Rhys Hughes, who skipped past his men before letting fly with a low drive from the edge of penalty area which just missed the target.
As the half wore on Saints continued to deal with the Everton pressure well, starting to get forward themselves in the half’s latter stages.
Ramello Mitchell posed a threat with his combination of pace and strength as he burst forward, just unable to find the final ball when getting into the right areas.
That search would have to continue after the break, as the Toffees went in with the advantage.
The second half started in a fiery circumstances, Ethan Burnett and Warrington clashing after a heavy challenge resulting in the latter going into the book.
This seemed to spur on the hosts, who soon extended their lead to three on 53 minutes.
The Toffees had proved a threat all game from corners, profiting from one this time around with Whitaker's header from Hughes’ cross.
Following the goal Mitchell looked to lift Saints once more with a low cross into the box, well cleared ahead of the keeper by Welch.
Dave Horseman then looked to change things from the bench, with Lucas Defise coming on just past the hour mark.
It was Mitchell who was involved again on 65 minutes, breaking free of the Everton back-line but unable to control the looping long ball despite rounding Tyrer.
Next came a chance for the hosts; Cannon’s low-ball firing across the face of the goal with an outstretched Small unable to meet it at the back post.
On 74 minutes Everton came close again, Whitaker seeing his header well saved by Bycroft after Kyle John’s surging run and cross.
Four minutes later Bellis won a free kick for his side in a promising position on the edge of the area.
Up stepped James Morris whose effort glanced off the crossbar with the wall and keeper well beaten.
Another Saints substitute took aim at the Everton goal inside the final ten minutes; Benni Smales-Braithwaite looking to curl one into the far corner but just missing the target.
The visitors enjoyed a strong end to the game in terms of possession, Mitchell again looking a threat with a burst into the box, followed by a shot aimed for the near post which went just wide.
But despite this the final goal of the game fell Everton’s way; a long ball from defender Joseph Anderson falling to the feet of Whitaker, who somehow managed to find the back of the net and claim his hat-trick from the tightest of angles.
It was a disappointing end to the season for Saints, who now have the off season to prepare and rebuild for the next campaign.