Southampton Under-18s returned to the top of the Under-18s Premier League with a controlled 2-1 victory over West Brom on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Tyler Dibling and Rylee Wright earned the win and proved decisive in a game that was played on the terms of the hosts for much of the time.
With a return to the summit in sight at kick-off, Saints looked to build some momentum early on and almost took the lead in the opening minutes when a Sonnie Davis cross proved just too high for Kami Doyle to connect with his header at the back post.
A driving run from central-midfielder Diamond Edwards then saw him create an opening for himself from the edge of the area but his shot flew wide.
West Brom responded with a push forward of their own and Akeel Higgins was perhaps unfortunate to see his deflected effort finish the wrong side of the post.
Further chances came at both ends as the game started to open up following the early sparring.
Saints forward Tyler Dibling forced West Brom goalkeeper Ronnie Hollingshead to tip over his fierce strike from range and then the hosts were thankful to trialist Josh Jeffries’ fine save to stop Reyes Cleary from breaking the deadlock.
Saints soon started to dictate the play though and went close again when Dom Ballard wriggled his way into a shooting position in the box and flashed a half-volley past the far post. Wing-back Matt Carson then lifted over the bar on the stretch when trying to connect with a pass lofted over the visiting defence in the next attack.
It was only a matter of time before Carl Martin’s side found the goal they had been searching for and it duly arrived on the stroke of half-time as Tyler Dibling drove into the area and fired high into the net after chopping onto his right foot.
Into the second-half, Saints looked to pick up where they had left off. Kami Doyle curled a free-kick narrowly over the bar from just outside the box and Dom Ballard was only denied by a good covering challenge having been put through on goal by substitute Rylee Wright shortly after.
With just a slender advantage in their favour though, Saints found themselves back level on 63 minutes. Good work from striker Reyes Cleary during a rare West Brom attack saw his shot blocked but the loose ball was turned home into an unguarded net by Akeel Higgins on the follow-up.
The home side were understandably determined to get back in front though and this determination was summed up by Rylee Wright as he made it 2-1 just seven minutes later.
With the ball loose on the halfway line, the winger poked past a West Brom challenge and put himself through on goal straight away in the process. He still had must of the visitors’ half to cover and the goalkeeper to beat, but his finish was calm and composed when it really mattered once he had reached the penalty area.
More opportunities were created as Saints looked to add to the scoreline that they deserved but they settled for a 2-1 win having limited West Brom to very few chances throughout the 90 minutes.
Saints are in action again on Saturday 26th February when they travel to face Fulham away from home.