U18s Report: Saints soar into FA Youth Cup semis


Southampton's Under-18s booked their place in the FA Youth Cup semi-finals with an impressive 3-1 win against Preston North End at Deepdale.

Kamari Doyle gave Saints the perfect start with a trademark free-kick placed into the top corner.

Preston captain Noah Mawene equalised from the penalty spot at the scores stayed level at half time.

Doyle added his second with a fine solo effort before Dom Ballard wrapped things up late on to confirm a safe passage to the semi-finals

Southampton fielded a strong side at Deepdale, with the prospect of a first FA Youth Cup semi-final since 2006 at stake.

Fresh from making a late cameo for the first team in the FA Cup the night before, Ballard led the line with the trio of Doyle, Tyler Dibling, and Sam Amo-Ameyaw, behind him.

Jem Hewlett returned to captain the side in defence, with Will Armitage accompanying him at the back.

Saints started the evening brightly as Doyle and Dibling linked well on the right, with the latter forcing a superb early save from Preston goalkeeper Tommy Davis.

The Saints winger latched onto a Doyle pass in the area but saw his poked effort deflected well over the crossbar.

Their positive early spell was rewarded though and it was Doyle who broke the deadlock on 11 minutes with a special strike.

Sonnie Davis was fouled in a promising position outside the area and Doyle took on the responsibility to step up and bend home a delightful left-footed free kick into the top corner.

Saints continued to string together some classy moves as they looked to add to their lead.

Doyle was again involved when he shot high and wide from a good position in the area, ending a fast breakaway that involved intelligent play from Dibling and Ballard.

However, Preston found a leveller against the run of play when Josh Seary was upended in the area, giving captain Noah Mawene the chance to slam home from the penalty spot.

An open game then saw Will Armitage almost restore Saints' lead immediately, but his header from a corner dropped narrowly wide of the far post.

The hosts were limited to few opportunities in the first half, but a good chance saw them go close to taking the lead themselves shortly before half-time.

Finlay Cross-Adair latched onto a lofted pass over the Saints backline and struck a firm shot at goal, but the ball hit the side-netting with his angle quickly closing down.

Both sides knew the importance of a fast start to the second period and early chances came and went at both ends.

Ballard received a clever Doyle pass in the area but could only slice wide after taking the shot quickly, before Felipe Rodriguez-Gentile stabbed over from a knockdown as Preston responded.

The home side were building some momentum in front of a respectable crowd at Deepdale and defender Kian Taylor was then presented with a golden opportunity to make it 2-1.

A deep cross was headed back into his path near the penalty spot where he had found space to shoot first time, but he could only find the stand behind the goal from one of his team’s clearest openings of the night.

As so often in football, Saints made Preston pay for their wasted chances on 68 minutes.

Doyle was the scorer again and secured himself a brace as he drove through the heart of the home defence and placed a neat finish into the bottom corner from just inside the area.

Progression to the final four was then secured for Saints with ten minutes to go as Ballard added his name to the scoresheet with his sixth goal in the FA competition.

The striker found space on the left to receive a forward pass and cut inside two Preston defenders, before squeezing a shot under Davis and sparking jubilant celebrations with his teammates.

The victory sets up a trip to West Ham United, as Saints are just one win away from reaching the final of the competition for the first time since 2005.