Marcus Barnes’s first-half header and Michael Obafemi's stoppage-time strike teed up the perfect start to Southampton’s Checkatrade Trophy campaign on Tuesday night.
The young Saints headed to face Colchester United on the back of a four-match unbeaten run in all competitions and their confidence showed in a 2-0 victory in a performance that demonstrated control and resilience in equal measure.
Barnes’s intervention came in the middle of an opening period dominated by the away side who showed their defensive mettle – with help from goalkeeper Harry Lewis - in keeping out their League Two opponents manfully amidst a downpour in the second half.
Obafemi's breakaway finish after a slick exchange of passes with Will Smallbone added the gloss in stoppage time.
Composed in possession, Jaidi’s charges looked the more cohesive unit at both ends of the field for the majority of the night in spite of some early and late pressure from crosses into the box.
Colchester’s Brennan Dickenson headed past the near post under pressure from Yan Valery before Aaron O’Driscoll cleared a dangerous wide free-kick behind in a testing opening quarter.
Saints emerged stronger out the other side and began to take control of the first half, the pace of Barnes and Obafemi and the energy of Valery down the right driving the hosts back into their own half.
The U’s Diaz Wright had already been booked for cynically halting a counter-attack led by Obafemi before a similar foul on Callum Slattery saw Will Smallbone curl a free-kick onto the post midway through the half via the slightest of touches from the goalkeeper.
Slattery’s clever slide-rule pass fed Obafemi in behind moments later, the Irishman hitting the legs of keeper Dillon Barnes with a low drive across goal.
With the yellow-shirted youngsters firmly in the ascendency the night’s opening goal very quickly followed, wideman Barnes rising highest in the box unmarked to head home his third goal of the season in all competitions.
Colchester briefly rallied but it was Saints who remained the more threatening going forward.
Twice Obafemi was foiled by keeper Barnes from the inside right and with help of the crossbar seven minutes before the interval, the half-time whistle offering a welcome reprieve to an increasingly overworked home defence.
Control became defensive organisation and menace on the break as the teams emerged for the second period.
Substitute Ryan Gondoh fired into the palms of Lewis within minutes of coming off the bench yet the better chances were still to be found at the other end.
Obafemi sprung into space once more on 52 minutes only for his square pass across the face of goal to agonisingly roll beyond the reach of goalscorer Barnes at the back post as Ben Rowthorn curled the follow up wide of the target when well-placed.
For all of their good work, Saints needed to remain vigilant at the back. A lunging block from Thomas O’Connor on Paul Rooney prevented an immediate response from the hosts after the dangerous Mikael Mandron had seen his shot spin off the heels of Slattery for a corner.
Barnes flashed wide on the volley and Tella stumbled with open grass ahead of him as Saints sought quick outlets on the counter-attack with Colchester’s superior fitness beginning to tell in the final 15 minutes.
The yellow wall thrown up in front of Lewis’s goal showed that they were more than capable of rising to the physical challenge.
A double block from O’Driscoll denied Kane Vincent-Young and Aaron Collins at point-blank range before the latter set up Ryan Clampin whose tight-angled effort was beaten away by Lewis at the near post.
The Saints stopper – on loan at Dundee United last season – came up trumps once more in stoppage time, clawing out Courtney Senior’s goalbound header to preserve the lead.
Obafemi's crisp one-two with Smallbone and composed finish in the last attack of the game was a rich reward for the efforts of both player and squad on a potentially testing night in Anglia.
Dillon Barnes (GK)
Paul Rooney (C)
Sammie SmodicsRyan Gondoh (46′)
Brennan DickensonRyan Clampin (63′)
Aaron CollinsFrank Nouble (78′)
Harry Lewis (GK)
Thomas O'Connor (C)
Nathan TellaJonathan Afolabi (86′)