Both sides had a man sent off as young midfielder George Marsh – on his first appearance of the season at this level and only the second of his fledgling career – and the Saints’ Harley Willard collected second bookings following a large scuffle with a quarter-of-an-hour left of a second period in which we controlled much of the play without creating too many chances.
Southampton skipper Jack Stephens had headed his side in front from a free-kick seven minutes before the interval and that ultimately proved the difference at St Mary’s.
It was, however, a vastly-improved performance from the heavy defeat at home to Liverpool on Monday night.
SAVES: SAINTS KEEPER CALLED UPON TWICE - 20mins
It was a real end-to-end, open game from the off but after Willard's volley whistled just over Tom Glover's crossbar, it was Saints goalkeeper Harry Lewis who pulled off two good saves within three minutes. Shilow Tracey, who was finding time and space in the Southampton half, impressively beat his marker but saw his angled drive from the right side blocked by the keeper's legs on 17 minutes before Lewis again kept out a 20-yard curler from 16-year-old Reo Griffiths – on his Premier League 2 debut – three minutes later. Olufela Olomola and Ollie Cook were both narrowly off target at the other end, the former challenging Glover outside his box and shooting from distance and the latter steering a header wide following a corner.
GOAL: SOUTHAMPTON 1-0 SPURS - JACK STEPHENS - 38mins
We'd denied the Saints from a set piece with a series of brave blocks moments before they took the lead from a free-kick in a similar position. Battling young holding midfielder Marsh – excellent for our Under-18s this season – was penalised for obstruction as he tried to shepherd the ball away from goal during a Southampton counter-attack and Callum Slattery clipped the free-kick in from the corner of the box with Stephens' header from seven yards out going in off the underside of the crossbar. Three minutes later, Glover made an important low save from Willard and, crucially, held onto the ball with more Southampton attackers closing in.
FREE-KICK: BENNETTS SO CLOSE – 73mins
We looked dangerous when we got forward in the second half and substitute Keanan Bennetts almost grabbed an equaliser on 73 minutes. Kyle Walker-Peters, frequently roaming in from the right side, was felled on the edge of the area and Bennetts whipped a left-footed free-kick inches past the upright.
RED CARDS: BOTH SIDES DOWN TO 10 MEN – 76mins
Players from both teams clashed near the touchline after a seemingly minor incident and the melee escalated to the point that Marsh and Willard received their second yellow cards and subsequently saw red, while Southampton’s Olomola was also booked. We continued to control the play but the nearest we went to an equaliser was when Griffiths’ low shot on the turn was stopped by Lewis after good work from Walker-Peters and Bennetts.
COACH UGO EHIOGU SAID
“It was a huge improvement from the Liverpool game on Monday, especially from the senior boys, but it’s disappointing because we’ve talked about the small details on set pieces and how important they are. It was a relatively comfortable first half up until a couple of minutes before they scored. It’s a bit of naivety from our attacking corner, we don’t smell danger, we get caught on the break two-v-two, give the foul away and the resulting free-kick sees a combination of scandalous play and naivety. We’ll look at that and ask the question why we don’t defend the middle of the goal. When we do go up and challenge we’ve got to win the header.
“It was another opportunity for some of the boys – Tashan Oakley-Boothe has played again, Reo Griffiths has done exceptionally well for his first game at this level at 16 years of age, TJ Eyoma was unlucky not to start the game based on the second half against Liverpool and it was a chance for the boys who are on the periphery as well. Those latter lads have got to step up – the younger ones are pushing them closely and they’ve had opportunities because of injuries to others. When those injured players come back, there’s going to be even more competition.
“It’s a learning curve for some. Apart from 90 seconds of naivety the game really should have been 0-0 and it should have been a lot more positive than it has been today. There’s some plusses, some frustration and some naivety all mixed in the bag. Hopefully, if some of these boys are involved, we’ll take our frustration out on CSKA Moscow on Tuesday.”
Southampton: Lewis, Bakary, McQueen, Jones, Cook, Stephens (c), Sims, O'Connor, Olomola, Slattery (Johnson 82), Willard. Substitutes (not used): Wood, Smallbone, Mdlalose, Parkes (GK).
Spurs: Glover, Walker-Peters, Muscatt (Eyoma 90+1), Marsh, Maghoma, Walkes (c), Tracey, Stylianides, Loft (Bennetts 63), Oakley-Boothe (Pritchard 78), Griffiths. Substitutes (not used): Owens, McDermott (GK).
Goal: Southampton - Stephens 38.
Yellow cards: Southampton - Cook 36, Willard 56, 76, Olomola 74; Spurs - Marsh 34, 74, Maghoma 60.
Red cards: Southampton - Willard 76; Spurs - Marsh 74.
Referee: Antony Coggins.
There's now a break in our Premier League 2 fixture calendar, with the next game coming against Manchester City at White Hart Lane on Friday, October 14. In the meantime, many of the young players who featured against the Saints will be hoping for further game time on the European stage as we travel to CSKA Moscow on matchday two in the UEFA Youth League this coming Tuesday (September 27).