Southampton Under-18s fell to a 5-3 defeat against Fulham in the Under-18 Premier League on Saturday at Staplewood Campus.
A flurry of first-half goals saw the hosts 5-1 down at the interval, but an improved display in the second period saw them reduce the deficit to two by the final whistle.
It did not take long for Saints to gain the lead in the game and they broke the deadlock thanks to a special goal from Tyler Dibling in the 7th minute.
Picking the ball up in a central position, he drove towards the Fulham area and worked himself space to fire a stunning strike from range into the top right corner.
The hosts looked to be on form in the early stages and Will Merry twice went close to adding a second – first driving a shot into the side-netting and then almost connecting with a low cutback from an unnamed trialist.
However, Mikey Harris's side were pegged back on 22 minutes when Aaron Loupalo-Bi found the net from close range, with the goal coming largely against the run of play.
This reply from the visitors seemed to help them to grow in confidence and a blistering spell of attacking play saw them go into the break with a comprehensive lead.
Good work from Terrell Works set up Oliver Gofford at the near post for their second, and a low ball across goal from the striker presented Lemar Gordon with a simple tap-in for the third.
Gordon was on hand again just a minute later to convert Gofford’s cross as it was made 4-1, and then a fifth just before half-time came when Loupalo-Bi robbed the Saints defence of possession and unselfishly played in Works for a simple finish.
Saints had plenty of work to do after the break but grabbed a goal back shortly after the restart. A superb free-kick delivery from Harrison Miles found the head of the trialist and his flicked header dropped under the crossbar at the far post.
Despite their healthy advantage, Fulham were dealt a blow when Jonathan Esenga was sent off for two bookable offences and this left his team a man light for the final 36 minutes.
The visitors held out until almost the final 15-minutes, as Saints got another goal back with a penalty. Dibling – who was having a superb game despite the scoreline – was upended after another mazy run towards goal and Merry calmly rolled home from 12 yards.
However, an improved second-half display from Saints was not enough to rescue a result and Fulham headed back to South London with the three points.