Southampton's youngsters fell to a 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa in the Under-18s Premier League on Saturday despite being on top for large parts of the game.
A high-intensity start to proceedings from Saints saw Sam Bellis go close to opening the scoring after just seven minutes. He met Matt Carson’s corner with a flicked header that looped over visiting goalkeeper Oliwer Zych but hit the crossbar, allowing Villa to clear their lines.
The hosts were having a lot of joy in winning the ball back from their opponents in the early stages and built many dangerous attacks whilst still looking for the opening goal.
A good move involving a Diamond Edwards flick-on in midfield and a weighted Bellis pass past the Villa defence put Riley Wright through on goal, but Zych was equal to the winger’s effort and kept his side level.
It proved to be a busy first-half for the Villa shot-stopper and he was called into action again on the half-hour mark to deny full-back Matt Carson finding the bottom corner with a strong drive towards his near post.
At the other end, Ollie Wright had largely been a spectator but visiting striker Dewain Sewell made sure he was staying alert by flashing a powerful drive just over the crossbar before the break.
Play then opened up as a lively first period came to a close, with Sam Bellis almost giving Saints a deserved lead again before Villa’s Chisom Afoka slid an effort wide from a promising position.
Into the second-half, it was Villa who would create the first chance. Afoka’s drive into the penalty area saw a loose ball fall to Tommi O’Reilly and the midfielder’s strike needed strong hands from Ollie Wright to turn behind.
Luke Pearce was introduced as a substitute as the second period got underway and he almost broke the deadlock shortly after. A neat combination on the right saw the striker turn beyond his marker and another defender before seeing his poked effort blocked at the near post.
However, it was Villa who claimed what proved to be an important lead with two quickfire goals.
First, Taylor Jay-Hart found the far corner via the post with a curling shot from just outside the area, and then substitute Travis Patterson was on hand to turn home from close-range to make it two goals in two minutes.
This was a blow to Saints after their strong first-half but they soon went searching for a way back into the game.
Ramello Mitchell’s low ball across the area found Luke Pearce well placed but he could not force his shot past Zych, and then Mitchell himself could not get the required contact on Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo’s cross after drifting into a central position.
Louis Carey’s side continued to look dangerous and searching balls forward almost found direct runs from the forwards on a number of occasions, but they were ultimately unable to find a goal of their own come the full-time whistle.
Saints Under-18s are back in action on Tuesday evening when they take on Burton Albion in the FA Youth Cup, with kick-off at 7pm at St Mary’s Stadium.