U18 Report: Saints reach FA Youth Cup quarter-finals


Southampton Under-18s powered their way into the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals with a win over league rivals Fulham at St Mary's Stadium.

A rapid-fire start saw Saints take a three-goal lead inside the first 15 minutes thanks to a brace from Dom Ballard and a goal from Kamari Doyle.

The visitors pushed for a way back into the tie throughout, and causec a nervy ending with late goals from Terrell Works and Tom Olyott.

An inspired performance from goalkeeper Adli Mohamed and his defence ensured Saints' passage into the last eight of the competition.

Five players who played in the B team's game last week started, as Ballard and Doyle were joined by Jayden Meghoma, Cam Bragg, and Tyler Dibling in a strong starting line-up.

The visitors had the first moment of action, after an underhit backpass allowed striker Aaron Loupalo-Bi to round Mohamed and shoot but Josh Lett blocked his effort before it found the net.

However, Saints started to knock the ball around confidently after their early scare and it was not long before they hit their stride and took the lead.

Good play in the centre of the Fulham half saw Doyle pick up possession in a promising area; his through ball found Ballard’s perfectly timed run and the striker did the rest with a calm finish when one-on-one with visiting goalkeeper Michael Allen.

The hosts had settled into the game well and extended their lead in the ninth minute.

Allen failed to clear the ball close to his own goal, allowing Ballard the chance to steal in and set up Doyle for the simplest of finishes from six yards out.

It was soon 3-0 as a confident Saints seized upon more nervous play at the back from their opponents and won a penalty.

The same duo were involved again as Doyle picked up a loose ball and pushed into the area, only to be brought down by a last-ditch challenge from his closest marker.

Ballard then stepped up to confidently stroke home the resulting spot-kick.

Fulham looked to work their way back into the contest and created two presentable opportunities shortly after.

Works forced a low save from Mohamed from the left side of the Saints box, before the Saints goalkeeper palmed over the bar to stop Callum Osmand from finding the net with a rising strike.

Good work from Will Armitage just after the half hour mark stopped another Fulham attack in its tracks as he closed the angles on Loupalo-Bi and prevented a certain shooting opportunity in the box.

It was Saints who calmly closed out a great first half with a good spell of possession with their attack still looking dangerous with some nice play in the Fulham half.

In the second period, Saints looked to pick up where they had left off.

A good turn and shot on the edge of the box almost saw Ballard complete his hat-trick, but a low save turned the ball wide for a corner.

Fulham would have felt the importance of the next goal and they almost pulled one back in the 62nd minute as neat play on the right saw substitute Olyott played into a promising position, but he could not keep his strike down.

With both sides searching for the next big moment, the game had started to open up; Ballard went close again to sealing his treble with an audacious chip, but his left-footed connection saw the ball drift wide of the far post.

Mohamed was then forced into his best work of the night when Fulham captain Delano McCoy-Splatt fired goalwards from range - it seemed destined for the back of the net but Saints' goalkeeper flew to his left to get two strong hands on it and keep it out.

A strong finish to proceedings from the visitors did see them break the Saints resolve with two quick goals to set up a nervy finish.

A determined run from Loupalo-Bi in the 81st minute ended with him squaring across the area for Works to finish, before Olyott found space on the right side of the area to bend a shot in via the far post.

However, Saints held firm towards the final whistle and can now look forward to the cub's quarter-final clash in 17 years as they face a trip to Preston North End.

Saints are next in action on Saturday 11th February when they travel away to take on Aston Villa in the Under-18s Premier League, with kick-off set for 11am.