Southampton’s youngsters battled valiantly but were narrowly defeated away to West Ham United in their penultimate game of the Under 18’s Premier League season.
The scoring commenced on 27 minutes, a scorching effort off the right boot of West Ham’s Divin Mubama enough to beat Ollie Wright and put the hosts ahead.
The lead was rapidly doubled just two minutes later, George Earthy cutting inside and firing a low shot that nestled into the bottom left corner.
Saints then instantly responded themselves, Kami Doyle clinically striking home following a communication breakdown in the West Ham defence on 31 minutes.
Fresh from halftime, West Ham earned a penalty in the 51st minute that was clinically tucked away by Mubama for his second of the game.
Southampton found the energy to reply once more through an excellent Fedel Ross-Lang header on 70 minutes, but ultimately were unable to find the deserved equaliser.
The Saints came into the game off the back of a sensational 4-3 victory away to Reading midweek, but struggled to re-enact such form against a well-oiled West Ham side; perhaps slightly fatigued from the intensity of their prior match.
Both teams emerged brightly in the London sunshine, West Ham clearly opting for a possessive style of play early on, but found many of their attacking options suffocated as Southampton responded with intense pressure on the ball.
Utilising his astonishing pace, West Ham’s Remy Caddington proved the biggest threat in the opening exchanges, the winger’s first effort on five minutes well smothered by the outrushing Wright, while his second flew just wide of the left post from a tight angle ten minutes later.
Southampton found themselves with a golden opportunity to get their noses ahead on 25 minutes, a clever through ball from deep intended for Luke Pearce was intelligently left by the striker who was aware he was offside, allowing Sonnie Davis to test Jacob Knightsbridge with a powerful strike, before Pearce’s attempt on the consequential rebound was remarkably headed off the line by a swarm of recovering West Ham defenders.
Probably still aghast at how they weren’t ahead, Southampton were caught out on 27 minutes for the opening goal, Regan Clayton launching in a long, lofted ball from the left that was misjudged by the backtracking Leon Pambou, allowing Mubama to control and fire into the top right corner.
Clearly psyched-up by their first the hosts doubled the advantage just two minutes later, Clayton creating another opportunity to deliver from the left side, the fullback this time finding Earthy, who showed nice composure to cut back onto his right foot and clinically finish into the bottom left corner from close range, his effort aided by a slight deflection.
With the game now very much end-to-end, Southampton instantly revived their hopes of a comeback on 31 minutes, Pearce picking out Doyle with a well weighted pass, allowing the attacker to gently curl his effort past a diving Knightsbridge, after a lack of communication within the West Ham defensive ranks led to cheap dispossession of the ball.
Eager to get on level terms before halftime, Southampton’s Doyle came close to getting his brace seven minutes before the interval, but couldn’t control his volley as he fired over the bar following a Ross-Lang floated cross to the far post.
Halftime didn’t exactly come at a brilliant stage for The Saints, who were firing on all cylinders toward the end of the first period, whereas the hosts were afforded a much needed reset.
Furthermore, it didn’t take long for West Ham to begin posing a threat again, Caddington once more showcasing his dazzling feet and trickery inside the area, eventually teasing Matt Carson into a mistimed tackle. Mubama stepped up to fire the resulting penalty emphatically into the bottom right corner on 51 minutes.
Showing an impressive willingness to fight back after going behind for a second time, Southampton kept Knightsbridge on his toes with a flurry of shots from range in the latter stages of the second period, both captain Lewis Payne and Doyle going close with well struck efforts.
West Ham could only soak up the pressure for so long, and Southampton finally broke down the door with 20 minuets to go, substitute Rylee Wright whipping his cross to the far post, where it was met by the hanging Ross-Lang who guided the ball back across the goal with a cultured header that ratted in off the post.
Despite their best efforts, Southampton couldn’t find the equaliser they undoubtedly felt was deserved, Dom Ballard’s curled effort from just outside the area proving to be the reds’ last roll of the dice, not quite double sixes, but positives to take nonetheless.
Southampton’s final game of the season next Saturday sees them host 11th placed Reading for the second time in three weeks, as the reds look to end their campaign on a positive note.