Saints’ Under-21s battled out a goalless draw with Arsenal at the Gunners’ Colney training ground on Friday.
In an encounter that lacked goalmouth opportunities, mostly due to sturdy defending from both sides, Arsenal came closest to finding the elusive goal through Kristoffer Olsson’s 25-yard curler.
Meanwhile, Saints were without a ruthless streak as they found good positions, both inside and outside of the box, but failed to really trouble with some wayward aiming.
Southampton began encouragingly as they fashioned the first opportunity inside the third minute.
Jason McCarthy and Jake Flannigan – a pair recently reinstated in the Under-21 side after aiding the Under-18s in The FA Youth Cup – combined, the former crossing in for the midfielder to slide and prod straight at Gunners goalkeeper Matt Macey.
Arsenal showed brief glimpses of promise in the early stages, Jon Toral curling the ball into Yaya Sanogo’s path for a clear run at goal until Jack Stephens timed a sliding tackle to dispossess him late on perfectly.
Sam McQueen, who was deployed as a lone striker, held the ball up well for Flannigan to play a reverse pass up to Lloyd Isgrove to charge into the box. Unfortunately, the winger failed to hit a shot under pressure and lost his balance, allowing Macey to collect.
Ryo Miyaichi threatened with a surge at Saints’ defence but he failed to trouble Cody Cropper in the same manner as his low effort was driven marginally wide.
The American custodian was called into action soon after when he had to dive to palm Olsson’s curling attempt around the post when the Swede was teed up by Thomas Eisfeld.
Despite doing more than just holding their own in the encounter, Southampton found themselves having to stave off more Arsenal pressing when they broke in behind the backline.
A cross was whipped to Miyaichi at the back post whose pull-back was destined to find the feet of Sanogo six yards from goal until Jordan Turnbull cleared the danger.
That was the last effort of a half in which Saints performed admirably and pressed plenty but no to avail.
HALF-TIME: ARSENAL U21s 0-0 SOUTHAMPTON U21s
The second-half start certainly didn’t mirror the opening period as neither side managed to create an opportunity early on.
McQueen and Jake Sinclair combined on the hour mark as the latter sent a shot straight into Macey’s grasp before Miyaichi raced into the right-hand side of Saints’ box and found space but blazed over from an acute angle.
McCarthy’s instincts served him well as he was comfortably first to Harrison Reed’s corner at the near post but made tame connection with the ball as he scuffed it narrowly wide.
Sinclair burst inside from the left flank into space but dragged a left-footed shot that flashed past the post before the winger had another chance soon after when he spun in the box but drove a fairly weak effort straight at Macey.
Saints’ unrewarding attempts to open the scoring were summed up with five minutes of normal time left when McQueen slammed a low, 25-yard free-kick that Macey comfortably smothered as both sides continued in failing to find the net until the final whistle.
FULL-TIME: ARSENAL U21s 0-0 SOUTHAMPTON U21s
Arsenal Under-21s: Matt Macey, Tafari Moore, Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill, Isaac Hayden (c), Semi Ajayi, Stefan O’Connor, Ryo Miyaichi, Kristoffer Olsson, Yaya Sanogo (Austion Lipman 60), Jon Toral, Thomas Eisfeld. Unused substitutes: Deyan Iliev (GK), Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Zachari Fagan, Glen Kamara.
Southampton Under-21s: Cody Cropper, Jason McCarthy, Jack Stephens (c), Jordan Turnbull, Matt Young, Dominic Gape, Harrison Reed, Jake Flannigan, Jake Sinclair, Lloyd Isgrove (Josh Sims 52), Sam McQueen. Unused substitutes: Chris Johns (GK), Josh Debayo, Ryan Seager, Joe Curtis.