A late penalty forced Saints Under-18s to settle for a draw in their league clash at home to Fulham.
Sam Gallagher was fielded and headed the hosts into the lead with less than ten minutes remaining before George Williams levelled the scoring with a penalty five minutes later in the dying stages of the game.
The match at Staplewood – the U18s’ last of the calendar year – provided an intense battle throughout as sturdy defences ensured that there was little goalmouth action for either side.
Amidst a relatively even start, the visitors were the only side to threaten to break the deadlock in the opening 20 minutes.
Jordan Evans whipped in a dangerous cross that drew no contact from any of his Fulham teammates, before the Cottagers gave the home side more of a scare three minutes later.
Fulham stole possession deep into Saints’ half, allowing Dean O’Halloran to lay the ball across to Williams who appeared to rush his effort as the retreating Tom Leggett closed in, which saw the forward side-effort narrowly wide from just inside the area.
Saints soon began to utilise their home advantage as they pushed forward and carved out several speculative chances.
The energetic Leggett surged into the box to meet Jake Hesketh’s drilled cross but the captain could only flick a tame effort straight into the hands of Magnus Norman.
A Jake Flannigan free-kick that failed to worry the visitors as it was swept into the wall soon followed before Gallagher looked to salvage something out of an overhit Hesketh pass into the area. The forward reached the ball before it rolled out of play and hit a first-time effort from an acute that unfortunately flew behind the net.
A much more inviting opportunity was presented to Gallagher on the stroke of half-time but his aiming didn’t match the high standard that the Scotland Under-19 international has set for himself recently.
The striker made use of his imposing figure as he outmuscled Cameron Burgess before lobbing the onrushing Norman, only to see his chip bounce marginally wide.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON U18s 0-0 FULHAM U18s
Despite the possession being shared evenly between the sides in the second half, it was Fulham who created more opportunities in the second 45 minutes.
Ten minutes after the break, Cottagers substitute Mekhi Leacock-McLeod hit a 25-yard drive that deflected off Isaac Nehemie, sending the ball fizzing inches wide.
Evans’ frustration down the left flank continued as the full-back charged forward and slammed a cross through the six-yard box that proved to be too powerful for his fellow Fulham players who failed to reach it.
The most infuriating moments for the visitors were still yet to come and arrived just after the 70-minute mark as Williams and Liam Donnelly failed to capitalise on the glorious positions they found themselves in.
Patrick Roberts’ cross was cleared only as far as Williams in the area, who chested the ball down before slicing a tame effort off-target.
Donnelly rose to meet a corner that he won with ease but failed to garner the right result as his header bounced up into Isted’s grasp.
Josh Sims attempted to re-create his recent stunning goal against Aston Villa that soared into the top corner when he cut in from the left flank; sadly on this occasion, the winger didn’t match the aiming as he whipped the ball just beyond the far post.
With nine minutes of normal time left, a well-worked free-kick resulted in GALLAGHER rising to nod in the opener. The forward won the aerial battle with Fulham’s backline with ease as he met the cross from the left flank with a header directed in at the near post.
Unfortunately, Fulham were gifted a penalty a few minutes later when Isted tripped WILLIAMS as he stretched for the ball. The forward dusted himself down to assume the spot-kick duties and slammed the ball into the top corner to ensure Saints had to settle for what was arguably a fair point.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON U18s 1-1 FULHAM U18s
Southampton Under-18s team: Harry Isted, Tom Leggett (c), Kyle Clinton, Josh Debayo, Isaac Nehemie, Jake Flannigan, Charlie Higgins (Mark Irvine 57), Armani Little (Alfie Jones 57), Jake Hesketh, Josh Sims, Sam Gallagher.
Unused substitutes: James White (GK), Will Wood, Colm Deasy.
Fulham Under-18s team: Magnus Norman, Liam Donnelly (c), Jordan Evans, Elijah Adebayo, Cameron Burgess, Nue Baba (Mekhi Leacock-McLeod 46), Joshua Smile, Solomon Sambon, Dean O’Halloran, Patrick Roberts, George Williams.
Unused substitutes: Marek Rodak (GK), Raheem Sheckleford, Fodan Naban, Shane Elworthy.