Southampton Under-18s fell to a 4-2 league defeat at the hands of Arsenal on Saturday, despite enjoying some of the best periods of the game.
A well-taken brace from Jimmy Jay Morgan had seen Carl Martin’s side draw back level at 2-2, having been 2-0 down after seven minutes, but two late goals from Arsenal gave them the victory at the final whistle.
It was Arsenal who grabbed a quick lead with their first attack of the contest. A low cross from the right found its way to Mathaeus Roberts in the centre of the goal and he had the simple task of turning home from close-range.
Saints responded strongly and created two quick-fire chances for Morgan, but the hosts soon made it 2-0 when Ethan Nwaneri fired home from just outside the area.
Despite the two-goal deficit that had come largely against the run of play, Saints remained positive and still looked dangerous when pushing forward. Promising build-up play created openings for each of Tyler Dibling, Diamond Edwards, Sonnie Davis and Rylee Wright, but their efforts from range could not find the reply they were searching for.
However, it was not long before the pressure told. With 27 minutes played, a searching ball over the top of the Arsenal defence looked for Dibling and, once the loose ball had fallen kindly, Morgan drove his strike powerfully into the net to get his side back into the game.
A 2-1 score is how it remained at the half-time interval, but Eddie Beach did have to make a good save with his feet late on in the first period to stop Charles Sagoe Junior from improving the home side’s lead once again.
Overall, it had been a half that Saints had the better of, and they surely would have been looking to make their positive play count fully in the second half.
Both teams battled hard for control in the opening stages of the second period. Beach again denied Sagoe Junior in the area, and Saints striker Dom Ballard saw his shot blocked at the other end when combining with strike-partner Morgan.
The pressing from the forwards had worried Arsenal as they tried to play out from the back, and this created Saints’ equaliser in the 72nd minute.
Ballard and Morgan combined again, as the former stole the ball well inside the opposition’s half and slipped the perfect pass through to the latter, who doubled his tally for the day and put Saints deservedly on level terms.
However, Arsenal claimed the lead again just five minutes later when a flowing move from left to right presented Billy Vigar with the chance to place a shot across goal and into the far corner.
This moment seemed to provide an injection of confidence for Arsenal at the end of the game and they soon made it 4-2 when Sagoe Junior turned home a cutback towards the penalty spot.
Saints are in action again on Saturday 9th April when they host Crystal Palace at Staplewood, with kick-off at 11am.