Sam Hoskins struck late on to earn Saints a point in an entertaining six goal game at Staplewood on Monday afternoon.
The second match of the Barclays Professional Development U21 League was played out on a swelteringly warm day at the club’s training ground, where Saints came from 3-0 down to secure their unbeaten start to the campaign.
Martin Hunter’s men gave themselves a mountain to climb after a difficult start to the game, going behind with just three minutes on the watch when a Courtney Cameron corner from the right was towered home at the far post by centre back Danny Devine to give Villa an early lead.
That advantage was doubled on 25 when Andras Steiber’s defence splitting pass was latched on to by Daniel Johnson who kept his cool to round Saints ‘keeper Cody Cropper before slotting in at an acute angle.
It was 3-0 just four minutes later after full back Cameron laid on another assist this time for Danny O’Brien who was afforded time and space to turn and fire home into the bottom right corner, although Cropper may feel that he could have done more after getting a hand to the strike.
Saints reduced the deficit in the 34th minute when Reeves tried his luck from distance with the ball falling kindly for Corby MOORE who hit a sweet outside of the foot volley which arched over Villa ‘keeper Benji Siegrist and into the top right of the net.
The goal did little to ease Martin Hunter’s concerns as he withdrew both Matt Young and Sam McQueen to enforce a tactical change with Andy Robinson and Lloyd Isgrove coming on to freshen up the team.
Calum Chambers dropped to right back and Ben Reeves pushed further forward to accommodate Robinson in the middle with Isgrove taking his natural position out wide.
Saints ended the first half much brighter but came out fighting to give themselves a chance in the second period.
After threatening to strike early in the second 45 through Moore and Isgrove, they found another way through on 56 minutes from substitute ISGROVE who pulled a goal back with a low strike at the far post, giving the home side the perfect platform to launch a comeback.
Hunter’s men had chances with Hoskins heading wide at the far post and Stephens seeing his header from a corner come back off the crossbar, whilst Isgrove’s running making him a nuisance for the visitors.
And it was the winger’s cross from Dickson’s pass that supplied HOSKINS with the late leveller, with the striker’s predatory instincts seeing him convert from six yards out for an 88th minute equalising goal.
Substitute Alberto Seidi who replaced Sinclair also had a good effort late on saved by Siegrist as the spoils were perhaps deservedly shared in the contest.
Saints U21s: Cody Cropper, Matt Young (Andy Robinson 37), Jack Stephens, Jordan Tunbull, Ryan Dickson, Calum Chambers, Ben Reeves, Corby Moore, Sam McQueen (Lloyd Isgrove 37), Jake Sinclair (Alberto Seidi 79), Sam Hoskins. Subs (not used): Chris Johns, Joe Curtis.
Villa U21s: Benji Siegrist, Liam Bateman, Courtney Cameron, Charlie Ward, Danny Devine, Derrick Williams, Josh Barton (Jerrell Sellers 60), Danny O’Brien (Ricky Calder 69), Jordan Graham (Mason Watkins-Clark 79), Daniel Johnson, Andras Steiber. Subs (not used): Calum Barrett, Malcolm Melvin.