Southampton’s Under-21s were defeated 2-1 by Charlton Athletic at a blustery Sparrows Lane on Tuesday afternoon.
Following the postponement of their league match with Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the week, the Development Squad travelled to south London for a friendly in order to maintain fitness in an enforced break between matches.
Saints started the stronger of the two sides and commanded a large amount of possession in the early stages against the Addicks.
The first chance of the match however, fell to the hosts when a through-ball to Myles Hippolyte allowed him to get the shot away, but Saints ‘keeper Chris Johns was quickly out to save the point-blank range effort, and then gather the loose ball.
Undeterred, Saints went ahead in the 15th minute. After Andy Robinson was fouled 25 yards out from goal, the team’s stand-out performer Omar ROWE stepped up to take the free-kick positioned to the right of centre, and brilliantly bent the ball inside the near post with his left foot.
The visitors had a chance to build on their lead when Corby Moore broke through on goal, but his shot on the turn was well wide of target.
Charlton grew into the game and began to create the better of the chances. Joe Piggott played a delicate chip through for the lively Hippolyte, but Johns was off his line quickly to smother the shot.
The home side drew level in the 33rd minute. A corner swung in from the right saw Joe GOMEZ connect with the header inside the six-yard box to send the ball past Johns into the far corner of the goal.
HALF-TIME: CHARLTON ATHLETIC U21S 1-1 SOUTHAMPTON U21S
The Addicks were out the blocks quickest after the break and managed to turn the game on its head in the 51st minute.
A fine ball from deep in midfield looked a routine one for Johns to gather, but the ‘keeper fumbled the ball whilst anticipating the sliding challenge from Piggott and it allowed the attacker to make it to the byline where he played a simple square pass for HIPPOLYTE to side-foot into the empty net.
The best chance for Saints to level thereafter fell to first goalscorer Rowe. A fast-paced counter-attack saw the quick-footed winger manage to get in behind the Charlton backline, but Nick Pope pulled off a fantastic save from an acute angle.
Pope was on hand again to save the follow-up from Jake Sinclair who tried to lash home the rebound in what turned out to be the closest moment for the visitors.
U21s coach Martin Hunter introduced striker Ryan Seager for the final quarter of an hour to try and force a leveller, which unfortunately was not forthcoming.
First-year scholar Niall Mason made his debut appearance at U21 level late on, whilst another debutant, Josh Debayo, played the full 90 minutes.
FULL-TIME: CHARLTON ATHLETIC U21S 2-1 SOUTHAMPTON U21S
Hunter was pleased to be able to get some game time for his players and felt they could all take valuable lessons from the tricky conditions the match was played in.
"That's how these players are going to learn,” he highlighted. “They are going to play in stadiums that are windy, they are going to play in conditions that are not the best and they need to be bright and understand that.
"The first 25 minutes were the best period of play for us. It was a windy day and Charlton adapted at times better than we did.
"It was good in terms of performance, particularly in the first half. We don't like to get beat and unfortunately the two goals conceded were down to us. They were poor goals to concede.”
Rowe’s goal proved to be a decent reward for the winger's efforts over the afternoon, and Hunter was pleased with his performance.
"Omar was our best player today,” the 21s coach declared. “He got our goal and had a fantastic opportunity in the second half to score another one for us.
"He's been working a lot on free-kicks in training and it was great to see him score one in the match today. It goes to show that if you practice something on the training ground it means you can emulate it on the pitch."
The game was fixed up at relatively short notice following the postponement of Monday evening’s game, and Martin stressed the importance of getting regular minutes for all of the players.
"It's important we get some continuity,” he said. “Ideally we want to be playing one game a week like the senior teams are playing."
Charlton U21s: Nick Pope, Harry Osborne (Aaron Barnes 60), Morgan Fox, Bradley Jordan, Terrell Thomas, Joe Gomez, Oliver Muldoon (Kadel Daniel 77), Diego Poyet, Myles Hippolyte (Tobi Sho-Silva 65), Joe Piggott, Jack Munns. Unused substitutes: Dillon Phillips, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis, Dammi Shitta.
Goals: Gomez (33), Hippolyte (51)
Saints U21s: Chris Johns, Matt Young, Matt Targett, Dominic Gape (Niall Mason 83), James McCarthy, Josh Debayo, Jake Flannigan, Andy Robinson (Ryan Seager 74), Jake Sinclair, Corby Moore (Josh Sims 65), Omar Rowe. Unused substitutes: Will Britt, Fraser Colmer.
Goal: Rowe (15)