The Under-21s came through their opening warm-up match of pre-season with a relatively comfortable victory at Sholing.
There were three different scorers on a productive night for the Development Squad, who used a rolling substitute system to useful effect as the minutes were shared out amongst the 17 man travelling pool of players.
Jake Sinclair scored in each ‘stint’ of his two appearances on the night, and those strikes were sandwiched by Lloyd Isgrove and Omar Rowe’s contributions, making James Thompson’s 75th minute reply for the hosts a mere consolation.
Sholing: Brown, Brewster, Diaper, Fear, Miller, Bowers, Craven, Fennemore, Wort, Jarvis, Watts.
Saints U21s: Johns (Britt 46), Young (Chambers 46), Stephens (Mugabi 46), Turnbull (Stephens 65), Targett (Colmer 46), Isgrove (Rowe 65), Gape, Reed (Sinclair 65), Moore (Curtis 25), Rowe (Branker 46), Sinclair (Seager 46).
The 21s played an expansive game, requiring patience to undo a well-organised home team, but after a couple of early warning strikes from Jake Sinclair - the best of which was a header that narrowly cleared the crossbar - Saints got their noses in front on 14 minutes.
Matt Young delivered the telling pass from right-back, and SINCLAIR took the ball out of his feet before shooting low across Sholing goalkeeper, Matt Brown and into the back of the net.
The visitors began to take aim more readily when in advanced positions thereafter, but efforts from both Sinclair and Omar Rowe, failed to test Brown.
Sholing full back Kevin Brewster struck a free-kick from a central position high over Chris Johns’s goal in the Boatmen’s only clear chance of the opening 45 though that was thanks in part to an earlier interception from Saints defender Jordan Turnbull, to deny Ashley Jarvis a strike inside the area.
Omar Rowe and Lloyd Isgrove switched flanks to good effect for the final 20 minutes of the half, and after both men and Harrison Reed had all gone close to doubling the lead, Saints eventually made it 2-0 with 43 minutes on the watch.
It was Reed who was in the right place to lay the ball into the path of ISGROVE and the winger took one touch to move the ball away from the last defender, before he stroked the ball home to increase the advantage going into the half-time break.
HALF TIME: SHOLING 0-2 SAINTS U21S
Having already withdrawn Corby Moore midway through the first half, Martin Hunter made a further six substitutions at the interval, with the changes seeing first goalscorer Sinclair replaced by second year Saints Academy scholar, Ryan Seager in attack.
In the second 45, Isgrove became increasingly involved, and it was his penetrating runs down the left flank that Sholing found particularly difficult to deal with until he departed the action 20 minutes into the new half.
Both Isgrove and substitute Calum Chambers had each provided Seager with opportunities to convert inside the six yard box, but both times the hosts somehow managed to ride the storm.
On 65, Saints made a further three substitutions as Stephens, Sinclair and Rowe all re-entered the action to share out the minutes amongst the whole squad.
Sinclair went close to adding his second goal of the game when he collected Rowe’s pass on the left, and saw his lobbed effort scrambled to safety by Sholing’s substitute ‘keeper who had come on amongst a flurry of changes from the home side.
One of those changes cut the deficit in half on 75 minutes when burly frontman James THOMPSON used his strength well to see off the challenge of the last defender before poking the ball under Will Britt to make it 2-1.
Three minutes later, Saints restored their two goal advantage when the ball was sprayed from right to left, where speedy wideman ROWE took full advantage by cutting in and curling a terrific shot into the far corner to make it 3-1 with 17 minutes to go.
And after Joe Curtis had been denied from adding to the goal tally, it was 4-1 as play ticked towards the last ten minutes when SINCLAIR fought hard to force his way through a last ditch tackle to break into the box and fire a crisp finish into the bottom right to complete the scoring.
FULL TIME: SHOLING 1-4 SAINTS U21S