Cambridge United were 4-0 victors over a young Southampton side at Abbey Stadium in the Checkatrade Trophy on Tuesday evening.
An experienced United started and finished on the front foot, with Ade Azeez opening the scoring from a penalty kick early on, before adding another in the first half and completing his hat-trick two minutes from time to round off an impressive night's work.
Jevani Brown scored the hosts’ third shortly after the restart, a killer blow for a particularly young Saints outfit, who weren’t able to recover from suffering such an early deficit.
Saints, despite tonight’s disappointment, still have a realistic chance of qualification, after a 2-0 success in their first group stage match, but will need a positive result against Southend United in early November.
Cambridge were quick out the traps. Full-back Greg Taylor flashed an awkward effort over in the third minute, a presentable chance, before more direct play gave Azeez the opportunity to head tamely goalward.
Marcus Barnes, playing as a central striker in the absence of Michael Obafemi, was the visitors’ brightest spark. Full of purpose and trickery, he twice fired at Finley Iron in the opening 10 minutes - although neither troubled the Cambridge stopper.
15 minutes had elapsed before the deadlock was broken - a mistake of Saints’ own doing. Tom O’Connor played a naive ball infield, which was picked up by Brown, and poked towards Azeez, who powered past Aaron O’Driscoll and tumbled over a clumsy outstretched leg.
The forward took the resulting spot-kick himself, firing low to Harry Lewis’s right, and providing the goal shy home side with the first opening of the evening.
Not to be deterred, Barnes nearly found instant reply moments later, after smart work from Tyreke Johnson down the left, but the cross, rather too pacey, just evaded the onrushing forward.
Azeez, a handful all evening, had threatened consistently throughout the first 45, and dealt Southampton’s youngsters another knock-back in the 36th minute.
Brown was afforded too much space in midfield, and spotted Azeez, who had peeled off the back of O’Driscoll and within two touches, had found the bottom left corner.
The second period, unfortunately, didn’t provide much reprieve either. Creator of the second, Brown, was the scorer of the third in the 51st minute - a smart finish from a tight angle as Radhi Jaïdi’s youngsters were punished for more novice defending.
The visitors did threaten from wide areas, with Nathan Tella and Johnson having the better, on occasions, of the Cambridge full-backs, but there were no takers in red and white when the cross was eventually delivered.
Barnes continued to work hard up top, but was isolated for the most part, before the game's biggest influencer Azeez notched his third, Cambridge's fourth, seconds before the final whistle.
A disappointing night overall, but not a fateful one, as Saints will have further opportunity to progress against Southend next month, should they be able to find a crucial win.
Finley Iron (GK)
Brad HallidayLeon Davies (45′)
Gary Deegan (C)
David AmooTom Knowles (74′)
Paul LewisLiam O'Neil (58′)
Harry Lewis (GK)
Tom O'Connor (C)
Nathan TellaChristian Norton (75′)