Southampton’s Under-21s made it back-to-back victories in the Elite Group with a 2-1 success over Arsenal on Thursday evening.
Martin Hunter’s men earned revenge for a 2-0 defeat at Barnet’s Underhill a month ago by coming back from a goal down to take all three points in what was their third successive victory at the Silverlake Stadium.
The result also moved Saints up to third place in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League heading into the final four games of the Elite Group campaign.
Arsenal carried the bigger threat in the opening exchanges of the game with striker Sanchez Watt proving to be a handful for the Saints backline, first firing over from the edge of the area, before forcing Paulo Gazzaniga into a fine low save in the 12th minute of action.
The opening goal arrived just a few minutes later though after the Gunners had maintained their pressure from a previous attack with the ball breaking kindly for Craig EASTMOND, who powered home into the top left corner with a side-footed finish that left Gazzaniga rooted to the spot.
Saints equalised somewhat out of the blue in the 24th minute, but in some style. A cleverly lofted pass almost found Lloyd Isgrove on the edge of the area, but the winger’s pressure led to a scuffed clearance from the Gunners defence which instead fell kindly to Jake SINCLAIR, and the forward kept his cool to find the corner of the net from distance for his seventh strike of the season.
It remained one apiece at half time, but both goalkeepers were called into action with Gazzaniga saving a tame header from Watt before Sinclair was denied a second of the night when his turn and shot was gathered by Emiliano Martinez.
The hosts made the perfect start to the second half, turning the game on its head just three minutes after the action had resumed. Another loose ball was seized upon by red shirts and Harrison REED was allowed to let it sit up nicely before hitting a wonderful dipping volley from range that dropped into the bottom left corner of Martinez’s goal for 2-1.
From there, it was a professional performance from Hunter’s side who restricted the Gunners as they struggled to find a response against a resolute and attackingly dynamic Saints side.
Under-18s striker Sam Gallagher made his 21s bow as a late substitute for the hosts with the tall forward replacing the hard-working Sinclair with the hosts chasing a third goal, but there were no further strikes as Saints remained in sight of an end of season play-off place.
Saints U21s: Gazzaniga, Young, Targett, Turnbull, Chambers, Gape, Reed, Moore, Isgrove, Rowe, Sinclair (Gallagher 82). Subs (not used): Cropper, Curtis, Mugabi, Ariyibi.
Arsenal U21s: Martinez, Wynter, Bihmoutine (Olsson 72), Eastmond, Boateng, Miquel (Yennaris 82), Rees, Henderson, Watt, Ansah, Meade. Subs (not used): Iliev, Ebecilio, Mugabo.