Southampton Under-18s started the new season with an entertaining 3-3 draw against Aston Villa in the Under-18s Premier League.
An early goal from Saints man Tommy-Lee Higgs was cancelled out by two Villa responses before half-time.
The hosts then equalised twice in the second-half through Rylee Wright and Will Merry to give themselves a share of the spoils.
It was Saints who had the first shot on target on six minutes. Good pressure from striker Tommy-Lee Higgs won possession in a dangerous position and Ryan Chavez-Munoz saw his low shot comfortably held after striding onto the loose ball.
It wasn’t long before Saints managed to put themselves ahead though as they broke the deadlock in the eighth minute.
Good play involving Will Merry and Josh Lett down the left flank resulted in the latter’s clipped cross being headed home expertly at the near post by Tommy-Lee Higgs, the ball looping over the dive of visiting goalkeeper James Wright and into the far corner.
It was an energetic start from the hosts and Wright had to be alert to stop Saints doubling the lead soon after.
He saved another Chavez-Munoz shot with his feet at his near post before flying to his left to palm away a shot seemingly destined for the top corner from Rylee Wright in the next attack.
It was proving to be a fast-paced affair despite the sweltering conditions at Staplewood and Saints looked determined to add to their early goal.
Rylee Wright had another chance to beat his namesake in the Villa goal on the half hour mark after good play from Sonnie Davis, but he could not force his strike on target from a promising position.
However, very much against the general run of play in the first period, Villa turned the game on its head and put themselves 2-1 ahead.
The visitors had Kobei Moore and Kyrie Pierre double to thank for the quick turnaround as they provided two close-range finishes, and this meant that Saints had some work to do in the second-half.
Soon after the restart, Saints clicked back into gear and were level on 48 minutes.
Tricky play from Will Merry saw him drive at the Villa defence before picking his pass at the right time. Rylee Wright was the recipient and his fierce strike flew into the roof of the net at the near post.
The twists and turns of the match were not finished yet though. Villa again went ahead when a deflected cross from the right flank fell at the feet of lively forward Pierre and he grabbed his second of the afternoon with a composed finish from close to the penalty spot.
Saints fought to get back level once again and Villa held onto their lead until the latter stages.
Mikey Harris’ hosts earned a point when a lofted set-piece from Sonnie Davis was headed across goal and Will Merry was on hand to stab home when the loose ball fell for him in the six-yard box.
Late blocks and good saves from both goalkeepers helped to maintain a point apiece before the final whistle was blown.
Saints are back in action on Saturday 20th August when they travel to face West Ham away from home, with kick-off at 12pm.