A Luke Pearce hat-trick saw Southampton Under-18s overcome Brighton 4-3 in what proved to be a frenetic encounter in the Under-18s Premier League on Saturday.
Saints started brightly and could have gone ahead early on when Pearce steered a presentable opportunity wide with his left foot after neat build-up around the box.
However, Brighton broke and took the lead with their first attack as Jaami Quereshi turned a low cross home from close range in just the third minute.
The visitors responded well though and levelled the game up on 14 minutes.
Good opportunities for Jimmy Morgan and Luke Pearce had previously been denied by Brighton goalkeeper James Beadle, but a telling cross from Fedel Ross Lang in their next move was met with a calm side-foot finish by Pearce at the back post.
Saints had battled back to a position of strength in the contest and their pressing was really troubling their opponents.
One turnover deep in the Brighton half of the field saw Jimmy Morgan slide strike-partner Pearce through on goal but his fierce strike only found the side-netting at the near post.
Both sides saw further efforts come and go but the scoreline was soon to be 2-2 with two quick fire goals before half-time.
First, Brighton’s Jake Gee produced a composed finished when unmarked in the box and then Luke Pearce responded by firing home his second of the afternoon after working space for himself near the 18-yard line.
It had been a mixed half for both sides and control had not been maintained for long periods of time, but Saints would have known that a win was on offer if they could produce a strong second-half performance.
They made the perfect start to the second period too. Fedel Ross Lang’s free-kick was denied by a superb save from James Beadle and Luke Pearce was on hand to ounce on the rebound and complete a well-deserved hat-trick.
Then with just 52 minutes on the clock, it was 4-2 as Ross Lang sped onto a through ball and found the bottom corner with a low strike across goal.
However, the hosts found a way back into it when substitute Billie Clark found the bottom corner with expert precision when he curled home from just outside the area.
Jimmy Jay Morgan had chances to increase his side’s advantage at the other end but Saints were having to deal with heavy pressure as Brighton looked to draw themselves level.
Billie Clark thought he has his second of the half when he chipped the ball over the advancing Adli Mohamed but defender Jem Hewlett did brilliantly to clear the ball off the line before it nestled in the net.
Saints fought hard in the latter stages and held on to a precious three points, although they were fortunate to see Brighton waste several notable opportunities including one that saw the bar struck from close range by Jack Hinshelwood.
Carl Martin’s side are back in action in the Under-18s Premier League on 5th February when travel to face Aston Villa away from home.