U23 Report: Saints 2-1 Middlesbrough

By SFC Media time Mon 23 Apr Saints v Middlesbrough
Photo by James Bridle | Nathan Tella (centre)
Mon 23 Apr 7PM
Premier League 2 - Division 2
Southampton
2
Middlesbrough
1
Jones [30'] Tella [37']
goal
O'Neill [79']
Hesketh (58') Slattery (62') Johnson (81')
yellow card
Soisalo (64')
Referee: Carl Brook | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 0

Southampton Under-23s signed off their Premier League 2 campaign on a high with an impressive victory over high-flying Middlesbrough, but results elsewhere contrived to end their play-off hopes.

The young Saints scored twice in eight first-half minutes at St Mary’s, as Alfie Jones headed home a left-wing corner before Nathan Tella finished smartly to double the lead.

Rarely troubled defensively, the hosts were forced to negotiate an anxious finale after substitute Tyrone O’Neill found the top corner with an explosive long-range shot 11 minutes from time.

Radhi Jaïdi’s side were relying on struggling Stoke to get a result at Reading, only for the Royals to run out 3-1 winners and pip Saints to the final play-off berth.

It would take half an hour for Saints to burst into life, as right-back Yan Valery surged to the byeline and crossed low for Michael Obafemi, whose lay-off was met by a deflected shot from Tella that forced an excellent diving save.

Boro keeper Zach Hemming was beaten from the resulting corner, however, as skipper Jones rose at the near post to meet Jake Hesketh’s delivery with a looping header that dropped perfectly into the far corner.

Suddenly Saints were purring, as the typically elusive Obafemi sprinted down the left and saw his low cross converted by Tella, as striker and winger switched roles to deadly effect.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 23: Nathan Tella (left) scores for Southampton FC standing with Michael Obafemi (right) during the PL2 match between Southampton FC and Middlesbrough FC atSt Mary's Stadium on April 23, 2018 in Southampton, England. (Photo by James Bridle - Southampton FC/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Nathan Tella (left) celebrates with provider Michael Obafemi after doubling Saints' lead

Jack Rose in the Saints goal had been a virtual spectator, but was called upon to get fingertips to a curling free kick from Ben Liddle that was sneaking inside the far post.

Liddle’s left foot was a weapon, and skipper Tom Brewitt twice got his head to set-pieces before the first half was out, failing to hit the target on either occasion.

Saints began the second half with the intention of putting the game out of sight, as Callum Slattery met Tella’s deep cross on the volley but lacked a clean connection.

The chance arrived indirectly from a corner, from which Jones raced back into his defensive habitat only to pull up, unable to continue.

Boro had hardly threatened all night and made a double substitution on the hour in a bid to turn the tide.

Still Saints maintained control, but a slack square pass in midfield was seized upon by Hayden Coulson, who embarked on a solo run into the box before being denied by the sprawling Rose at his near post.

Then O’Neill, fresh from the bench, produced a moment of magic to half the deficit, receiving a throw-in to feet, turning sharply and dispatching an unerring shot into the top corner from 25 yards that left Rose no chance.

Saints had done their bit, which will please Jaïdi, but Reading’s victory means the season ends here for his young charges.

Southampton

Head to Head Stats

Middlesbrough
  • Possession (%)
    57
    comparison angle
    43
  • Shots
    8
    comparison angle
    6
  • Shots on target
    4
    comparison angle
    2
  • Corners
    4
    comparison angle
    6
  • Passes Complete
    291
    comparison angle
    184

Southampton PL2

1
Jack Rose (GK)
3
Jake Vokins
2
Yan Valery
6
Alfie Jones (C) goal
replace Will Wood (56′)
5
Aaron O'Driscoll
11
Tyreke Johnson yellow card
8
Callum Slattery yellow card
7
Nathan Tella goal
replace Olufela Olomola (78′)
4
Ben Rowthorn
10
Jake Hesketh yellow card
9
Michael Obafemi
16
Olufela Olomola
15
Jonathan Afolabi
12
Will Wood
13
Kingsley Latham
14
Thomas O'Connor

Middlesbrough PL2

1
Zachary Hemming (GK)
3
Patrick Reading
6
Enes Mahmutovic
2
Robbie Tinkler
5
Tom Brewitt (C)
4
Connor Malley
replace Tyrone O'Neill (59′) goal
10
Luke Armstrong
11
Hayden Coulson
8
Ben Liddle
7
Mikael Soisalo yellow card
replace Stephen Walker (86′)
9
Mitchell Curry
replace Kian Spence (60′)
14
Tyrone O'Neill
21
Bradley James
12
Kian Spence
16
Liam Hegarty
15
Stephen Walker
Mixed emotions for Tella
Saints v Middlesbrough

Mixed emotions for Tella

Winger's joy with goal and win tempered by Saints' play-off absence.

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