Having drawn a blank at home to Leicester City last time out, we took the game to a strong Southampton side at St Mary’s Stadium – Will Miller, Josh Onomah, Shaq Coulthirst, Harry Winks and Ruben Lameiras all going close but to no avail.
Goalkeeper Luke McGee earlier made a fine one-on-one save to deny Ryan Seager, but his opposite number Paulo Gazzaniga was the busier of the two stoppers as the game progressed.
Southampton’s starting line-up featured several players with first team experience – Ryan Bertrand, Harrison Reed and Gazzaniga chief among them – while we included Shaq Coulthirst up top, the forward eligible to play under the terms of his loan at Southend United.
We made a bright start, Grant Ward winning possession in midfield and bursting down the right channel before seeing his low cross hacked away by Jason McCarthy.
Onomah’s shot drifted just wide after good build-up play down the left by Miller, but it was the Saints who went closest in the opening exchanges – Seager charging forward after latching onto a loose ball in the centre and going clean through on goal. McGee made himself big, though, and parried the eventual shot upwards, with Bongani Khumalo tidying up at the expense of a corner.
Winks broke forward for us on 13 minutes, waiting for Miller to catch him up before squaring for the nippy attacker to run onto the ball and let fly. His shot from 20 yards, though, was straight at Gazzaniga.
Southampton forced a series of corners as the first half went on but McGee commanded his area well, often getting both fists to any aerial invasions to quickly alleviate any pressure.
Ward teed up Winks to shoot from 25 yards out shortly before the half-hour mark but his effort bounced through to the keeper, while Khumalo hurled himself in the way of a fierce drive from Bertrand at the other end.
With 35 minutes gone, a dangerous cross from Southampton’s left by Lloyd Isgrove found its way through to Jake Sinclair on the right side of the box, but this time it was Cameron Carter-Vickers manning the barricades with Sinclair’s shot towards the far post being deflected away.
Coulthirst cleverly latched onto a ball over the top of the hosts’ defence on 41 minutes but was denied from an acute angle by Gazzaniga while the same player was the recipient of a clever Onomah pass at the corner of the box a minute later, but McCarthy was quickly in attendance to clear away for a corner.
We made a positive start to the second period and our attacking intent was on display for much of the remainder of the game.
Lameiras played in to the feet of Onomah, whose shot from the edge of the box was blocked, before the same two players combined again two minutes later – slightly further out this time – with the latter’s shot taking a slight deflection and whistling marginally beyond the upright.
Kyle Walker-Peters got forward and fed Onomah who in turn sprung Coulthurst in on the right side, but his shot from the angle was blocked by Will Wood.
A left-footed effort from Lameiras zipped inches over the bar, while a low drive from Winks failed to cause Gazzaniga any significant issues as we continued to search for an opening goal.
Ward curled a free-kick over the top after a foul on Miller just beyond the hour mark, while a rasping effort from Walker-Peters flew through a crowded area and forced Gazzaniga to push the ball over the bar three minutes later.
Lameiras crashed a set piece into the wall on 71 minutes with his tame follow-up finding its way comfortably through to the keeper, while Sinclair smashed just over the bar from the left angle at the other end after substitute Josh Sims’ ball in from the right was deflected out to him.
Carter-Vickers got forward on 78 minutes, testing Gazzaniga with a header from Winks’ free-kick, before Miller blazed high and wide after Lameiras found him in the right channel.
A Dominic Gape free-kick sailed into the grasp of McGee as the hosts tried to snatch a late lead, before a fine save from the latter’s opposite number denied us an 89th-minute winner. Substitute Aaron McEneff played the ball in to the feet of Winks in a central position, the midfielder turning and arrowing a shot towards the top corner from 20 yards out – only for Gazzaniga to palm away in what was our last real chance of the game.
Southampton U21s: Gazzaniga, Mason, Bertrand (Mugabi 46), Gape, McCarthy, Wood, Isgrove (Sims 46), Reed, Gallagher (Hesketh 73), Seager, Sinclair. Substitutes (not used): Britt, Olomola.
Spurs U21s: McGee, Walker-Peters, Ogilvie (McQueen 75), Ward, Khumalo, Carter-Vickers, Lameiras, Winks, Coulthirst (Akindayini 66), Onomah, Miller (McEneff 83). Substitutes (not used): Lesniak, Miles (GK).