An impressive attacking display saw Southampton Under-18s claim a comprehensive 5-1 win over Arsenal in their final fixture in the Under-18s Premier League on Friday afternoon.
Dom Ballard’s expertly taken hat-trick helped Saints to their deserved win and the striker’s tally for the afternoon was added to by late goals from Sam Amo-Ameyaw and Jay Robinson.
A strong line-up was fielded at Staplewood with many of the players that have featured up the age groups with the B team returning for their final fixture of the season.
The dangerous attacking threat of Ballard, Amo-Ameyaw and Kamari Doyle were joined in attack by new signing Princewill Ehibhatiomhan, who had scored his first goal for the club last time out.
Saints started confidently and knocked the ball around with speed in the opening stages, leading to them taking an early lead in the seventh minute.
A searching ball from Cameron Bragg found the run of Alfie Prescott on the right and his low cross towards the front post was perfect for Ballard to turn home from a central position.
Saints continued to put the pressure on Arsenal as they looked to then add to their advantage; Amo-Ameyaw was unfortunate to see his shot fly narrowly wide after he had picked the ball up in space and driven straight towards the visitors’ penalty area.
However, Arsenal drew level with 19 minutes played when a free-kick wasn't cleared and Ismeal Kabia was on hand to turn home as the loose ball fell to him twelve yards out.
The hosts could have regained the lead shortly after when Amo-Ameyaw produced a similar run again into space, but dragged his right-footed shot wide.
Ballard also went within inches of doubling his and his side’s tally for the afternoon just before half-time when he snapped a fierce effort at goal from range but saw the ball go the wrong side of the post.
Into the second-half, another piece of fine attacking play from Ballard again saw Saints move into a 2-1 lead.
The clinical forward received a pass and pushed into the box before shifting the ball onto his right foot and curling a lovely strike into the far corner of the net.
He almost had his hat-trick soon afterwards when excellent pressing won the ball back close to the Arsenal goal but Ballard ended the subsequent move by at arrowing his strike just over the join of crossbar and post.
Arsenal responded well and had a good chance to level once again when both Omari Benjamin and Osman Kamara failed to connect properly with a dangerous cross from the right.
Yet, just after the hour mark, Ballard was not to be denied any longer and duly completed his treble in the 64th minute, finding a shooting opportunity from a similar position but forcing the ball in at the near post instead of going across goal.
Saints deserved a healthy advantage based on the balance of play, but Josh Jeffries was called into action to palm away Michal Rosiak’s free-kick to deny the visitors a way back into the contest.
As the game entered its closing stages, Saints soon made it 5-1 with a quickfire double that put the match beyond any possible doubts.
Amo-Ameyaw netted his side’s fourth when he squeezed the ball in across goal from a narrow angle, before Robinson completed the scoring with a confident finish after receiving the ball just outside the box.
Saints finish their fixtures in the Under-18s Premier League with 24 points from their 22 games and moved above Arsenal to finish seventh in the league table.