U18 Report: Saints go joint top


Southampton's youngsters saw off a late fightback from Brighton at Staplewood Campus to win 3-2 and go joint-top of the Under-18s Premier League for the time being.

After an even opening few minutes Saints grabbed the lead through Luke Pearce’s calm finish after rounding the keeper on 16 minutes.

It was two just four minutes later, Rylee Wright finishing from close range after a square ball by Jimmy Jay Morgan.

After withstanding the Brighton fightback Saints made it three just shy of the break; Pearce with his second of the game after a low Josh Squires cross.

The Seagulls cut Saints’ lead down to just one following the hour mark, Zak Emmerson with a well-timed header at the far post before Samy Chouchane made it two from the penalty spot.

It was a tense final few minutes, but the hosts held on for a vital three points.

Saints made four changes to the side which beat West Brom away from home last-time-out, the notable inclusion being Ryan Finnigan as he continues his recovery from injury.

With the two sides tied on 13 points and a place apart in the standings it was no surprise the opening ten minutes proved to be an even affair.

The opening chance of the game came for the visitors after 13 minutes, Zak Emmerson played through one-on-one with Eddie Beach, who did well to narrow the angle and force a corner.

Saints responded in the best possible fashion just two minutes later. Finnigan producing a looped through ball into the path of Pearce, who rounded the keeper but took the ball wide.

The forward kept his composure and find the far corner to give his side an early lead.

Finnigan was the orchestrator again on 19 minutes, a lobbed through ball finding the run of Morgan, who squared the ball to an open Wright who made no mistake.

After a rampant five minutes Saints began to control the tempo of the game as Brighton looked for a route back into the contest.

Their grip on the game grew yet more dominant with three minutes left of the first half.

Squires controlling a long ball forward with ease on the right wing, before firing a low cross towards the far post where Pearce was there to fire home first time.

The first half of the second 45 fell Saints way. Kamari Doyle breaking free of his man on the right side before seeing his effort tipped round the post.

Emmerson continued to be Brighton’s main threat up front; the forward coming inches away from nicking the ball past Beach into an open net but for some clever feet by the Saints keeper.

But Saints didn’t adhere to these warnings, Emmerson heading home to cut the hosts’ lead at the far post on 64 minutes.

The second 45 was certainly controlled by the visitors, who had the chance to cut the lead even further on 71 minutes when they were awarded a penalty.

Up stepped Chouchane, who narrowly avoided Beach’s outstretched hand to grab their second of the afternoon.

From then on Brighton continued to press, the ascendancy certainly in their favour.

If Saints were to calm any nerves it would be via a set piece, Doyle looking to do just that with five to play via a free kick which flew just over.

The hosts task of cementing their lead got that little bit harder with five minutes to go, Cameron Bragg sent off for a second bookable offence.

Martin threw on defender Joshua Lett in an attempt to fill the gap left by Bragg for the remaining minutes of what had been an entertaining 90 minutes.

As the sending off illustrated the second 45 was a rather stop-start affair, leading to plenty of stoppage time at the death.

Brighton used this added time to their advantage, pushing Saints back but met with a resilient defence as they searched for that all important third.

Eventually it was an important three points for the hosts, who go level on points with top of the table Fulham for the time being.

Next up is the visit of Aston Villa to Staplewood Campus on Saturday 6th November (1pm GMT).