Southampton’s Under-18s played out a 1-1 draw with their counterparts from Leicester City at Staplewood on Saturday afternoon.
Both goals came in the first half of a battling contest which Saints took the lead in on eight minutes when midfielder Thomas O’Connor struck his fourth goal of the season with a fine long range strike.
Leicester equalised just before half-time when a shot from the edge of the area by Kairo Mitchell looped into the top left corner of the net with Josh Eppiah perhaps getting the final touch as it went in.
The leveller didn’t deflate the hosts, who fought hard in the second 45 to take a deserved point from the game which ended a run of nine successive league defeats.
There were five changes made by Craig Fleming from the team that started the defeat at Arsenal, with Tyreke Johnson moving to left back Langan, Thomas, O’Connor, Kayembe and Johnson all coming back into the side.
Saints made a solid start to the contest and took the lead on eight minutes when Thomas O’Connor drove forward from midfield and struck a fine shot into the right corner which Leicester goalkeeper Cameron Yates got a hand to, but couldn’t keep out the strike.
Leicester enjoyed spells of possession in the Saints half but never really troubled Harry Lewis early on. The goalkeeper’s command in defending set pieces saw the hosts protect their lead, while Ben Rowthorn made a well-timed challenge on Kairo Mitchell to keep the Foxes at bay.
Both Olufela Olomola and Harley Willard went close to adding to the lead with the latter’s direct effort form a corner brushing the roof of the net.
But Leicester found a leveller on 39 minutes when Mitchell’s shot from the edge of the area seemed to take a deflection on its way in to the top left corner, giving Lewis no chance of getting across to the shot.
The visitors almost turned the game on its head when Harvey Barnes ventured into an advanced position before striking a low shot narrowly wide, but it remained level pegging at the break.
Saints set about regaining their lead after the interval and Willard had the ball in the net two minutes after the restart but was judged offside by the match officials.
Barnes made a surging run down the right for Leicester before shooting over, while Kyle Gruno should have done better when the ball dropped to him inside the area from a corner.
At the other end, Cal Templeton was booked for the visitors for a late tackle on Archie Thomas as Saints tried to launch a counter-attack.
There were fewer chances created in the second 45 with Leicester perhaps having the better of the limited opportunities. Mitchell had a chance to get his second of the game on 65 minutes when he received Toby Fura’s partially cleared free-kick at the far post, but he could only put the shot into the side netting.
Saints youngster Harlem Hale came off the bench to make his first appearance for the U18s in place of Carel Kayembe inside the final 20 minutes of play.
A resolute ending to the match from the hosts drew its reward with a hard-earned point secured by Fleming’s men.
Southampton U18 team (4-2-3-1): Harry Lewis, Connor Langan, Harry Hamblin, Ben Rowthorn, Tyreke Johnson; Thomas O’Connor, Joe Lea; Harley Willard, Archie Thomas, Carel Kayembe (Harlem Hale 73); Olufela Olomola (c) (Dan N’Lundulu 67). Unused substitutes: Neal Osborn (GK), Siph Mdlalose, Will Smallbone
Goal: O’Connor (8)
Leicester City U18 team: Cameron Yates, Elliot Percival, Michael Kelly (c), Lamine Kaba-Sherrif (Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall 62), Kyle Gruno, Cal Templeton (Alex Pascanu 75), Toby Fura, Ethan Hodby, Kairo Mitchell, Harvey Barnes, Josh Eppiah (Elliot Webber 62). Unused substitute: Joey Keavny
Booked: Templeton (61)
Goal: Mitchell (39)
Referee: Tom Moisey