A very young Southampton Under-18s side fell to defeat at Fulham in the Under-18s Premier League on Saturday.
In action just two days after their FA Youth Cup heroics at Preston North End, a much-changed side went into half time with a 2-1 lead thanks to the opening goal from Nick Oyekunle and a Tommy-Lee Higgs penalty, either side of a reply from Fulham’s Lemar Gordon.
However, superb attacking play from the hosts in the second period saw them add four to their tally for the day as Gordon’s second was added to by further strikes from Aaron Loupalo-Bi, Delano McCoy-Splatt and Brad De Jesus.
In the capital, it did not take the visitors long to hit their stride and they took the lead with just three minutes on the clock.
Good pressure from strikers Higgs and Oyekunle saw the latter win the ball and run through on goal, where his subsequent finish across goal was composed and found the bottom corner.
Higgs then almost got his name on the scoresheet too when Saints won a free-kick in a promising area, but his whipped effort went narrowly over despite a clean connection from his right foot.
Fulham gradually worked their way back into proceedings though and levelled things up in the 22nd minute.
Winger Gordon had already forced an excellent save from Saints goalkeeper Josh Jeffries but found his way into the box again in the next attack to fire the ball low into the net at the near post.
Saints soon looked forward again and Higgs worked another good opportunity for himself when he jinked into the box on the right and struck a shot wide and into the side-netting at the near post.
However, the striker was not to be denied for long and did find his goal from the penalty spot – a spot-kick dispatched confidently down the middle after yekunle had been brought down by Fulham goalkeeper Michael Allen.
Higgs was captaining Saints and seemed to be involved in everything that the Hampshire outfit did going forwards.
Some incisive build-up through the middle of the pitch saw Korban McMullan lay on another chance for him shortly before half-time, but Higgs was denied in the box by a strong save from Allen.
It was Fulham who then made the fastest start to the second period and their first attack of promise saw them equalise once again.
A low ball across goal from the right by Delano McCoy-Splatt found Loupalo-Bi at the far post and he had the simple task of turning home from close-range.
Saints pushed to move ahead again though and we’re denied by two more excellent saves from Allen – the first denied McMullan but the second saw him fly to his left to make a miraculous stop as Oyekunle looked to tap home a low cross from inside the six-yard box.
As both sides tussled to gain full control of the contest late on, it was Fulham who grabbed a 3-2 lead in the 68th minute.
A tidy move down the left saw the lively ordon play McCoy-Splatt into the area and his poked finish on the stretch found the net just inside the near post.
With Saints up against a confident home attack as the game moved towards its conclusion, there was still time for Fulham to add two further goals.
Gordon made it 4-2 with a sublime curling effort after cutting in from the left flank and then full-back De Jesus was on hand to nod home from a corner and complete the scoring in the game.