Southampton’s B team return to Premier League 2 action for the first time in 2021 this week, visiting West Ham United on Friday night.
West Ham United vs Saints B
Premier League 2
Rush Green Training Ground
Friday 29th January, 7pm GMT
After last week’s trip to Chelsea was postponed due to the snow it will be one day shy of 50 days since Saints B last took to the field in competitive action when they arrive at Rush Green training ground on Friday night.
But despite the long wait the last Premier League 2 fixture will be remembered fondly; Nathan Tella inspiring a 5-2 victory over Leicester City at Snows Stadium in December.
Tella scored a remarkable four goals in 41 first-half minutes, with Johnson adding a further effort in stoppage time, as Saints went in 5-1 up at the interval.
The game finished 5-2 ensuring a much needed third win of the season for Dave Horseman’s side.
Friday’s opponents West Ham have had less of a wait since their last competitive action, returning to PL2 with a narrow 2-1 defeat at home to Tottenham.
J’Neil Lloyd-Bennett scored two during the latter stages of the second half for the visitors, before Jayden Fevrier grabbed a consolation for the Hammers eight minutes from time.
It was certainly an entertaining afternoon the last time these two sides met this season at Staplewood Campus in September.
Saints got off to a flying start; Dan NLundulu grabbing a goal inside ten minutes with a low drilled shot across the face of the West Ham goal.
The second half started just as well as the first as far as Saints were concerned, Nlundulu converting a penalty won by Josh Sims just four minutes following the interval.
But with the visitors seemingly out of the running a goal against the run of play through Oladapo Afolayan just five minutes shy of the hour mark sparked life into the visitors.
The equaliser came in the 88th minute; Connor Coventry stepping up and slotting past Angus Gunn to rescue the Hammers a point.
Following the longer than expected break, Horseman reviewed the progress his played had made in what was a difficult but ultimately successful time for the Academy.
“It’s been a real complex time unfortunately,” he said. “Obviously we have a mixture of boys who live abroad in Switzerland, Ireland and France.
“After the Leicester game we trained for a week or so then had the complications with the borders starting to look like they were going to shut. So the guys who were required by the first team had to leave a couple of days early.
“It’s been a logistical challenge but still really good. It teaches the boys how to be resourceful and take some responsibility and allowed us to do a few other bits behind the scenes to get ready for the second half of the season.”
Despite the break from PL2 action, many B team regulars have made the step up into Ralph Hasenhüttl’s first team. Something Horseman was understandably extremely proud of.
“The boys who have gone up have really bought into the programme.
“I was reading an old article where we spoke about the B team not just being a name change but it is actually a way of working.
“We try to win every game, but it’s only really about making a smoother transition. So the best bit, not just for me but for all the staff and the first team staff who have bought into it massively, is that some have made a smoother than normal transition into the first team.
“Really, really proud of them and those boys from the first day of pre-season have really bought into it. If that was a message for everyone else in our Academy it’s really believe in what we’re doing because you can be successful if you try to stick to the way we want to play."