A youthful Southampton B team side suffered defeat at League One Exeter City on Tuesday night in the Papa Johns Trophy group stages.
Dom Ballard carried his goalscoring form with England back to club football, his neat low finish into the near corner giving Saints the lead on 18 minutes.
The hosts responded well to going behind, Matt Jay eventually levelling the scores on 40 minutes with a drive from the edge of the box.
Exeter turned the game on its head in first-half injury time, Saints loanee Kegs Chauke tapping home from close range after Jay’s free-kick hit the post.
Exeter side was a mixture of youth and experience, including Fulham loanee Jay Stansfield and Saints loanee Chauke, who had been given special permission to feature.
Dave Horseman’s side featured the exciting youngsters Sam Amo-Ameyaw and Jimmy-Jay Morgan, alongside the prolific duo Dominic Ballard and Sam Bellis.
Saints enjoyed a positive start to the game, dominating possession and pushing their hosts back as they home side looked to counteract the pace of Morgan and Ballard.
The hosts looked to respond during an entertaining opening ten minutes, a searching ball into the box looking for Stansfield who failed to connect on the stretch.
On 15 minutes came the game’s first shot on target as the contest began to open up; Grecian’s skipper Jay firing from range for what was an easy claim for keeper Matt Hall.
With both sides looking dangerous it was important for one side to make their chances count. That side was the visiting Saints.
Ballard received the ball out wide, before cutting inside and finding the bottom corner to give his side the lead and continue his scintillating form.
This seemed to spark the hosts into life, who followed up with a strong strike from Stansfield, which Hall did well to tip behind.
But Saints continued to pose a threat on the break, Morgan bursting down the left flank in behind the Exeter defence, before firing over from a tight angle.
Eventually the hosts’ pressure told, skipper Jay finding space on the edge of the box before finding the far corner and levelling the scores. Despite efforts from Hall to keep it out.
It was a case of lightning striking twice for Saints, who were forced into a change immediately after. Nathanael Boot replacing the injured Zuriel Otseh-Taiwo.
Things went from bad to worse before the break, Jay’s free kick hitting the post and tapped home by Chauke from close range in the second minute of stoppage time.
Into the second 45 and the hosts dominated early proceedings, Hall forced into a string of impressive saves to stop Exeter gaining a two-goal lead.
The Saints youngsters’ test soon got tougher. Jevani Brown, with seven goals and five assists in League One so far this season, introduced on the hour mark.
With both managers ringing the changes the game started to drift; most of the action contented in midfield as the game entered the final 20 minutes.
Amongst the limited chances was a sighter for Morgan on the edge of the box in the 71st minute, but his strike was an easy claim for Jamal Blackman.
The hosts showed their experience to shut out the majority of Saints’ attacks, but the visitors came inches away from an equaliser with five to go.
Payne’s deep free kick was met by Nico Lawrence in the box at the far post, who headed towards goal only to see the ball rattle the bar with Blackman beaten.
Ultimately it was a narrow defeat for Horseman’s side, who certainly showed their worth by pushing the Grecians right to the last.
Next up for Saints B is Aston Villa in Premier League 2 at Snows Stadium on Saturday 8th October (12pm BST).
Jamal Blackman (GK)
Jack SparkesJake Caprice (68′)
Alex HartridgeGabe Billington (59′)
Rakeem HarperPedro Borges (68′)
Matt Jay (C)
Sonny CoxJevani Brown (59′)
Pierce SweeneyJosh Key (59′)
Matt Hall (GK)
Lewis Payne (C)
Zuriel Otseh-TaiwoNathanael Boot (41′)
Sam Amo-AmeyawTyler Dibling (66′)
Jimmy-Jay MorganLuke Pearce (77′)
Dominic BallardWill Merry (77′)