Southampton youngsters suffered an Under-18 Premier League defeat on Saturday, as West Bromwich came away from Staplewood Campus with a 3-1 victory.
The Baggies took the lead after 13 minutes as Reyes Cleary’s deep cross was glanced bin by Layton Love.
Cleary was involved in the second on 27 minutes, winning and then converting a penalty during a strong opening half an hour for the visitors.
Saints started the second half strongly, a goal from Luke Pearce on 56 minutes highlighting such, but were dealt a cruel blow three minutes later through Cleary’s second and eventual winner of the afternoon.
Returning from B team duties for Saints was Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo, who started on the left flank looking to link up with the likes of Luke Pearce and Fedel Ross-Lang up top.
In goal was Ollie Wright, another name who has been a enjoy time within the B team squads in recent weeks.
The opening chance of the game fell to the hosts, Otseh-Taiwo firing a low ball into the box which found the feet of Pearce, who could only shoot over from close range on 7 minutes.
West Brom responded and took the lead just minutes later; Cleary bursting down the left flank before finding an inch-perfect cross onto the head of Love, who glanced his header in off the far post.
The Baggies nearly went two up five minutes later through another glancing header, as Caleb Taylor headed wide Josh Shaw’s deep free kick.
Otseh-Taiwo and Kami Doyle led a dangerous looking breakaway for Saints on 25 minutes after West Brom put the hosts under considerable pressure, but the former’s cross failed to find his man.
This proved costly for the hosts, who fell foul to a quick Baggies break as Leon Pambou took down the dangerous Cleary just inside the penalty area.
Up stepped Cleary, who failed to send Wright the wrong way but managed to still have enough power on the ball to get it past the Saints keeper, doubling the visitors’ lead on 27 minutes.
At times Saints played some neat football, the likes of Pearce, Lett and Doyle combining well with one-touch football as they looked to build forward.
The hosts had an opportunity to halve the lead in first half stoppage time, however Lewis Payne’s deep free kick failed to find Pambou’s surging run at the back post.
West Brom had the opening chance of the second 45; Cleary involved again showing his pace and strength to surge into the Saints box after latching onto a long ball but was unable to hit the target.
Saints responded with two efforts of their own.
First Doyle fired a low cross into the box which was missed by Baggies keeper Ronnie Hollingshead, but Ross-Lang was unable to convert into an open net under considerable pressure.
Then came a long-range effort for Payne, who let fly on the edge of the box and forced Hollingshead to react.
A goal was on the cards for the hosts, which was exactly what followed in the 56th minute.
The link-up between Pearce and Doyle was pivotal again as the latter played a through ball into the path of the former who had made a surging run into the box.
Pearce checked onto his left foot before firing an effort into the roof of the net to give Saints a deserved lifeline.
It was nearly a quick-fire double for the hosts, Payne receiving the ball on the edge of the box again before, with power, just scraping the crossbar.
But despite what the second half had shown so far the fourth goal of the game fell in favour of West Brom, just three minutes after Saints had halved their initial lead.
Cleary unsurprisingly was involved again, touching down a superb through ball from full-back Lino De Sousa, before slamming his effort past Wright for his second and the Baggies’ third of the afternoon.
A cruel blow for Saints, who had looked the better side during the second 45.
The goal didn’t dent Saints’ enthusiasm for long, however.
Substitute Riley Wright continued to pick up pockets in and around the West Brom penalty area as the hosts looked for a route back into the game.
Nor were West Brom happy to settle for just three, continuing to fire in deep cross which caused a threat for Saints on numerous occasions.
Jeremi Rodrigues had an effort on goal inside the last ten minutes, causing Hollingshead to parry away out of danger.
Another chance for Pearce came in the 83rd minute, the ball falling to the feet of the Saints striker inside a crowded area who could only hit Hollingshead.
Pearce had an even better chance seconds later, bursting free of the West Brom defence but taking one touch too many, which allowed the Baggies’ defenders to close him down.
It was a third chance in quick succession for Saints’ number nine, who kept getting in the right positions, this time firing just wide of the left post after breaking free of his man.
During a hectic final five minutes West Brom had further opportunities to extend their lead; scorer of the first goal Love forcing Wright into a good save down to his left.
Wright made another good save from the resulting corner, pushing away Daniel N’Goma’s point-blank header to keep it at 3-1.
The final effort of the came via a Saints free kick, Payne eventually looping an effort towards the back post but with no takers ready and waiting.
It ended 3-1 to the visitors, with Saints looking to bounce back at Reading on Tuesday.