It was seven up for Southampton’s youngsters as they cruised into the Fourth Round of The FA Youth Cup at the expense of local rivals Portsmouth.
A second-half hat-trick from Sam Gallagher was one of many highs for the home supporters to enjoy in a 7-0 victory at St Mary’s that not only ensured Saints advanced in the competition, but also took the local bragging rights with convincing win in front of 3,814 spectators on home soil.
The hosts led 2-0 at half-time through goals from midfielders Jake Hesketh and Niall Mason but the margin of lead could have been even greater as they were restricted by a battling visiting team in the opening 45 minutes.
The floodgates opened in the second period, though, as Gallagher claimed his first from close range on 51 minutes, then Hesketh added his delightful second after showing some sublime skill before finishing with aplomb midway through the half.
Gallagher notched two more for the youngsters side before substitute Mark Irvine drove in a seventh with five minutes remaining to complete the scoring on a memorable evening.
The visitors had got the game underway attacking the Chapel stand on a clear December evening at St Mary’s with a good following from both sets of supporters flanking the pitch with home supporters lining the Itchen stand and Portsmouth fans in the Kingsland.
The two teams sought to make an early impression on the contest, but the first shot of the game didn’t arrive until the fifth minute, when Portsmouth full-back Brandon Haunstrup tried his luck from range with a strike which was easy for Saints keeper Harry Isted to gather.
A competitive opening saw the feisty edge to the encounter bear its teeth when Haunstrup then put in a late challenge on Niall Mason, which gave Saints their first opportunity to attack the Pompey goal.
Mason’s delivery into the area landed at Josh Sims’s feet inside the six yard area after striker Sam Gallagher’s effort had been blocked, but the midfielder couldn’t turn his shot home from close range as the ball went wide of the left post.
Saints upped the ante and went close again in the eighth minute, as Gallagher then headed over from Tom Leggett’s cross from the right flank.
The visitors almost got a lucky break in the eleventh minute when a loose clearance was pounced upon by Lewis Horsburgh, who tried to head the ball over the advancing Isted, but Kyle Clinton was there to sweep up the danger behind his goalkeeper.
Back at the other end in the 14th minute, Leggett picked up the ball from Barnes and cut inside from right back to hit a rising left footed shot which Alex Bass in the Pompey goal got his body behind to keep out.
Pompey replied with Ben Close firing over from distance, though the Saints defence will have been disappointed to let the midfielder find as much space as he did to get a shot away from 25 yards out.
The breakthrough goal arrived on 27 minutes as Saints were rewarded for their patience. Gallagher got to the byline on the left to pick a perfect cross onto the edge of the six yard box where the advancing Jake HESKETH stuck out a leg to divert the ball into the bottom right corner.
The hosts followed up to almost score a second when Josh Sims broke forward to hit a heavily deflected strike that Bass had to readjust his feet quickly before collecting on his goal line.
Saints assumed control of the contest following their goal with their pressing style reminiscent of the First Team as they pushed on for a second goal. Mason won possession in midfield to tee up Jake Flannigan who fired wide from range with a low strike before Hesketh and Marcus Barnes were involved in another break forward that caused the visiting defence problems.
Inside the last five minutes of the half, the hosts were somehow denied by an incredible double save from Bass to first deny Flannigan from range and then Gallagher on the follow-up as he tried to turn in from an acute angle.
Bass arguably went one better in the closing stages of the half as he got at full stretch to claw away Gallagher’s attempted lob from the left side, which stopped the ball from dropping into the corner.
But Saints weren’t to be denied their second before half-time as Matt Targett’s 44th minute corner was headed down towards goal and cleared from the line, before Niall MASON pounced on the rebound to stab home for 2-0 which gave the hosts a deserved two goal margin of lead heading into the break.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 2-0 PORTSMOUTH
The second 45 got underway with no changes from either side during the interval.
Saints picked up from where they left off though, and immediately asserted their dominance down the right side where Gallagher made a great run to get the better of Chad Field, before being fouled , and then Legget followed up with a run that was brought to an abrupt end by the Pompey full-back.
From the set-piece on the right the ball fell to Hesketh, whose shot from the edge of the area was blocked, but only as far as GALLAGHER who added his name to the scoresheet with a neat finish from six yards out to make it 3-0 after 51 minutes.
Barnes struck a fierce shot over the bar as Saints further penned in their opponents, who were being outplayed in every department.
After Bradley Tarbuck summed up their threat with a wayward strike that flew wide, Portsmouth withdrew Conor Chaplin in favour of Lewis Gill to add some fresh legs to the right side of midfield.
The hosts thought they’d scored a fourth when Gallagher nipped in and flicked home a cutback from Targett, but the striker was flagged offside by the assistant on the far side.
It took another couple of fine saves from Bass to deny Saints a fourth goal which now seemed a case of when and not if. Sims with a strong run that he cut inside to test the keeper with, and the shot stopper then dusted himself down to make another great save from Gallagher’s follow up.
Flannigan waltzed his way through the Pompey area to poke a shot at Bass, but the goal which had been coming finally arrived just past the hour mark.
With the ball in the final third of the field HESKETH dinked the ball over Pompey skipper Jack Whatmough before grabbing his second of the game with a sweet finish into the bottom right corner for 4-0.
It was 5-0 on 66 when Leggett got down the right to cross from into the middle where GALLAGHER rose highest to nod back across goal and into the far corner as the striker celebrated his second goal of the game.
Cries of, “We want six” rang around St Mary’s as the home crowd revelled in the occasion of a dominating display from the youngsters in red and white.
Hesketh tried his luck again with a low drive that Bass got down to, before Flannigan shot wide from the right side.
Jason Dodd made his first change in the 72nd minute with winger Mark Irvine replacing Marcus Barnes on the right for the final quarter of an hour or so of the contest.
Sims made a nuisance of himself to keep possession in the Pompey half a little longer with the visitors struggling to keep up with the winger as he twisted and turned his way down the touchline.
Targett warmed Bass’s hands again before Gallagher was denied a hat-trick by the back leg of the goalkeeper who knew little about the save he made.
On 77, Saints made a double switch with Higgins coming on for Sims and two goal scorer Hesketh making way for Isaac Nehemie.
Nehemie was instantly involved as he got down the left flank and cut inside to send in a dangerous looking cross that was deflected behind for a corner. The full-back by trade then switched with Targett on that side to give the latter a chance to join the attack late on.
It was from the other flank though that Saints posed their next threat as Leggett cut inside to see his shot blocked, and Irvine’s follow up flew wide of the right post.
With ten minutes to play Fahad Rwakarambwe replaced Jae Heon Kim for the visitors, with the former’s introduction onto the pitch allowing Gill to move into the middle.
The sixth goal came on 84 minutes when Targett’s measured delivery arrived just behind where GALLAGHER would have liked the ball to be played, but the ball bounced off his thigh and past Bass via the post.
A minute later, it was 7-0 as substitute IRVINE raced into the area on the right and kept his composure to slide the ball in at the near post for the icing on the cake.
As the final whistle went, the ball finished in the one area it had spent the least amount of time in during the second 45 as Pompey earned a late spell of possession in the Southampton half, with Saints allowed to enjoy their comfortable win with no further dramas on the pitch.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 7-0 PORTSMOUTH
Southampton team: Harry Isted, Tom Leggett (c), Kyle Clinton, Josh Debayo, Matt Targett, Niall Mason, Jake Flannigan, Marcus Barnes (Mark Irvine 72), Jake Hesketh (Isaac Nehemie 77), Josh Sims (Charlie Higgins 77), Sam Gallagher
Unused substitutes: James White (GK), Armani Little
Goals: Hesketh (27 & 61), Mason (44), Gallagher (51, 66 & 84), Irvine (85)
Portsmouth team: Alex Bass, Brandon Haunstrup, Harry Medway, Ben Close, Chad Field, Jack Whatmough (c), Conor Chaplin, James Granger (Snorre Nilsen 75), Lewis Horsburgh, Bradley Tarbuck (Lewis Gill 55), Jae Heon Kim (Fahad Rwakarambwe 80)
Unused substitutes: Alfie Raine (GK), Ryan Smart
Referee: Adrian Tranter
Attendance: 3,814 (616 away fans)