Southampton’s Under-21s ended a run of four consecutive defeats with a hard-fought 1-1 draw against their counterparts from Tottenham at St Mary’s on Tuesday night.
Martin Hunter’s men were good value for their point but may feel they should have had all three from a spirited contest in which Jake Hesketh’s long range goal was cancelled out by a well-struck effort from Nabil Bentaleb on 76 minutes.
Saints had also edged a goalless first half and were unfortunate to see Cuco Martina see an effort that went in ruled out a touch harshly for an infringement made by Josh Sims.
But the point will be a welcome start for Hunter and his team who go in search of their first win of 2016 at Everton next week.
A starting eleven consisting of first team regulars Paulo Gazzaniga, Cuco Martina and Juanmi supplemented a 21s side that was reshaped due to having six players out on loan.
The changes allowed Sam Gallagher to lead the line for Martin Hunter’s men on a chilly night inside St Mary’s.
Saints were forced into an early substitution in the game when left back Josh Debayo was forced off with what looked to be a shoulder injury. He was replaced by schoolboy Jake Vokins who came on for his first appearance at this level.
Vokins was involved just past the quarter hour mark when he linked up well with Jake Hesketh down the left side, a move which resulted in the latter’s cross being headed towards goal by Josh Sims at the far post where Spurs ‘keeper Luke McGee held on to the effort.
Tottenham created more openings in the first half but never seriously tested Gazzaniga who saved shots from Josh Onomah and Will Miller with relative ease.
The visitors’ best chance came on 26 minutes when neat link-up involving Shayon Harrison and Ononmah created the chance for Miller, but on the run, his first-time strike flew wide.
Saints had the ball in the net three minutes later when Cuco Martina, from the same spot that he scored for the first team against Arsenal, hit a long range strike into the net but Sims – in an offside position – was judged to have blocked the goalkeeper’s sight on the shot’s way through.
The hosts ended the opening 45 minutes on top with a good move ended abruptly before Juanmi could capitalise, and then Hesketh saw an ambitious shot deflected wide late on.
The contest evened out again in the opening exchanges of the second half, with Spurs seeing both Harrison and Onomah taking aim at Gazzaniga’s goal, but again, not causing the Argentine too much trouble.
Saints came back at the visitors and, after seeing Sims have a low shot saved by McGee, they took the lead on 64 minutes.
It was a move that started out on the right flanks with Martina, and he found Sims in the centre. The midfielder then ran the ball into the path of Hesketh who took a couple of touches before curling in a fine strike into the top right corner for 1-0 which was no less than the hosts deserved.
Martin Hunter’s men threatened to undo their good work with a couple of free-kicks conceded in dangerous positions. Both dead ball efforts were struck with venom by Nabil Bentaleb, but each one fortunately dropped just wide of Gazzaniga’s right post.
Spurs eventually levelled with around quarter of an hour remaining when Onomah found substitute Emmanuel Sonupe on the left and the cross from him into the area was only cleared as far as Bentaleb, and his first time strike flew past Gazzaniga for 1-1.
With time running out, Hesketh saw a long range strike clip the outside of the post as Saints went in search of a late winner, but after three minutes of stoppage tine they were forced to settle for a draw.
Southampton U21 team (4-2-3-1): Paulo Gazzaniga; Cuco Martina, Alfie Jones, Bevis Mugabi, Josh Debayo (Jake Vokins 6); Harrison Reed, Dominic Gape (c); Juanmi, Jake Hesketh, Josh Sims; Sam Gallagher. Unused substitutes: Harry Lewis (GK), Olufela Olomola, Armani Little, Richard Bakary
Booked: Reed (60)
Goal: Hesketh (64)
Tottenham U21 team: Luke McGee; Kyle Walker-Peters, Anthony Georgiou, Luke Amos, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Nabil Bentaleb (c), Will Miller, Harry Winks (Filip Lesniak 81), Shayon Harrison (Emmanuel Sonupe 70), Josh Onomah (Cy Goddard 81), Anton Walkes. Unused substitute: Harry Voss (GK)
Goal: Bentaleb (76)
Referee: Adrian Quelch