Southampton Under-18s fought hard to claim an excellent 2-1 win over league leaders West Ham in the Under-18s Premier League on Saturday.
Saints took the lead in the first-half through Will Merry but West Ham levelled late on when Jerry Umolu found the net. The winner for the hosts came courtesy of a penalty, which was won and converted by Tyler Dibling.
Facing an opponent who had won all 12 of their opening league fixtures, Saints started well and knocked the ball around confidently in the first five minutes.
Both sides would see early chances come and go. West Ham’s Gideon Kodua sliced a shot wide on the stretch and then Saints forward Nick Oyekunle couldn’t direct his header on target from a deflected cross as play moved back to the other end.
Saints continued to look bright as the first-half moved towards its halfway point. Defender Will Armitage was unfortunate to see his header from a lofted corner fly just past the far post as the hosts searched for the opener.
It was not long before Saints did find the breakthrough though. A good run from Alfie Prescott saw him played into a promising crossing position and his ball across goal striker Will Merry for a simple tap-in from close-range when West Ham failed to clear.
The visitors looked for a quick response. A whipped cross from left-back Liam Jones met the run of striker Callum Marshall but he could not keep his header from going over the bar.
As the first period drew to a close, Saints could look back on their work and be pleased having kept their lead and created more chances with intelligent passing and runs from deep.
After the break, it was West Ham who started brightly. Divine Mukasa went close to levelling the scores when he rolled an effort just wide from close to the 18-yard line.
A brilliant move from Saints then saw them work an opportunity to double their lead. Will Merry and Tyler Dibling combined with quick passes on the edge of the area and this led to Merry rounding West Ham goalkeeper Finley Herrick, but the striker could only find the side-netting on the wrong side of the post.
At the other end, the home side were then thankful to an excellent save from Adli Mohamed as he flew to his left to palm away Favour Fawunmi’s header from a corner.
However, West Ham did find a goal with 16 minutes remaining when Jerry Umolu followed up Liam Jones’ strike across Mohamed to turn home at the far post.
A lively ending to the game continued though when Saints were awarded a penalty. Quick feet from Tyler Dibling in the box saw him tripped by a visiting defender and he picked himself up to dispatch the spot-kick confidently.
Good defending and controlled spells of possession from the hosts towards the end of the game helped them see out their win over the league leaders.
Saints are next in action on Saturday 4th February when they host Aston Villa in the Premier League Cup, with kick-off at 11am.