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Acrobatic Ajayi effort enough to see Under-18s to victory against Saints

Southampton 0-1 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Sat 18 February 2023, 13:30|Tottenham Hotspur

A stunning acrobatic effort from Damola Ajayi saw our Under-18s edge Southampton 1-0 in our league meeting on the south coast on Saturday afternoon.

Having been either wasteful or expertly denied by Saints goalkeeper Josh Jeffries when opportunities had come our way in the first half, we stepped out for the second period with the bit between our teeth, determined to break the deadlock. And we did that just five minutes after the restart as Ajayi controlled the ball in the box, facing away from the goal, before firing over his head and into the top right-hand corner.

From that point, there was very little in terms of clear-cut opportunities with both sides struggling to find the crucial final ball - something that had been symptomatic of the game. Our hosts did apply some pressure on our goal in the game's closing stages, however they never really tested Luca Gunter between the sticks as we held on to claim all three points.

Despite the Saints' late efforts, it would be fair to say we were deserving of victory at our opponent’s Staplewood training centre – especially considering our start to the contest. Within the opening 20 minutes, we dominated the exchanges and, importantly, offered a threat in the final third. In that spell, Callum Olusesi and Yusef Akhamrich both sent efforts narrowly off target while a Max McKnight low, driven crossed clipped the far post.

The hosts started to get into the game as we reached the midway stage of the first-half with their first chance of note coming on 25 minutes - Tommy Lee Higgs dragging an effort wide of the far upright. Ryan Chavez-Munoz then drew a smart save out of Gunter from range three minutes later.

That was that from the home side, who were sporting their away strip, in the opening period though as, if anyone was likely to score, it would have been us. We finished the half by testing Jeffries three times in quick succession with Akhamrich and McKnight involved in each opportunity. First, on 31 minutes, the former saw a free-kick saved by Jeffries before the latter met the rebound, only for the Saints stopper to prevent us again. Akhamrich was then denied by Jeffries with an angled drive from the left on 38 minutes before the goalkeeper saved a header from the winger, following a neat cross from McKnight.

With so many spurned opportunities, you wondered if we would be made to pay in the second half but, just five minutes after the restart, Ajayi banished all such questions as he picked out the top right-hand corner of the net with a quick spectacular overhead kick.

It was an outstanding piece of quality that the game was crying out for, and it happened to be the last clear-cut opportunity we would see in the game. Moments after Akhamrich did go close again after neat play through the middle of the pitch had created a half chance while, up the other end of the pitch, bodies were being put on the line, not to protect our goal, but to defend our final third, showing just how comfortable we were at the back.

There was a significant moment on 77 minutes though as Billy Heaps returned to the pitch for the first time since August, coming off the substitutes bench after recovering from a back injury. The hosts did have one final opening in the contest on 81 minutes as Korban Mullan lofted an effort towards goal from distance, however it was an easy claim for Gunter as we saw the game out to make it four unbeaten in all competitions.

Southampton 0-1 Spurs (Under-18 Premier League)

Spurs: Gunter (c), Andiyapan, King, Dorrington, Chaplin, Hall 9Willhoft-King 73), McKnight, Kyerematen, Ajayi, Olusesi (Black 73), Akhamrich (Heaps 77). Substitutes (not used): Morgan, Lehane.

Match data

Goals: Spurs – Ajayi 50

Yellow cards: Southampton – Higgs, Stepien-Iwumene; Spurs – Chaplin.

Referee: Jonathan Pike

Venue: Staplewood training centre, Southampton

Weather: Cloudy with spots of rain, 12 degrees