Southampton’s youngsters started their Checkatrade Trophy campaign with a 2-0 defeat away to a buoyant Peterborough United side.
Saints, who are one of 16 clubs invited to field an under-21 team in the competition, began the group stage with arguably the toughest match of the three they will face, as they visited the League One leaders.
They were two down by the break, as an early Junior Morias goal was followed by a Marcus Maddison penalty, but Martin Hunter's team fought well throughout, causing some problems of their own against their high-flying opponents.
Technical Director Hunter made two changes from the side that lost 1-0 at home to Blackburn in Premier League 2 action last Friday, as Alex McCarthy played in goal instead of Jack Rose, while Aaron O’Driscoll came in for Thomas O’Connor.
The task facing Saints was a big one, with Peterborough – who included former Southampton Academy defender Ryan Tafazolli in their line-up – topping the third tier after four wins from their opening four matches.
Their confidence didn’t take long to show, as they took the lead after just two minutes.
A corner was flicked on at the near post, looping up in the air, and Morias was able to react quickest at close range to sweep the ball home.
Saints almost levelled two minutes later, as Jonathan Afolabi got on the end of a through pass, but his first-time effort was turned wide by an excellent save from Peterborough keeper Conor O’Malley.
The lively Morias was still causing plenty of issues at the other end, though, and he went close after 14 minutes, driving forward before fizzing a shot wide from just outside the area.
He went close again shortly afterwards, latching onto a ball in the area and sending in a fierce, angled shot that deflected wide.
The pressure did eventually tell midway through the half, as Idris Kanu went to ground in the area under a challenge from Ollie Cook, with referee Trevor Kettle pointing to the spot. Maddison then stepped up for the hosts and sent McCarthy the wrong way to double the lead.
Afolabi almost halved the deficit soon after, cutting onto his left foot just outside the box, but his shot went a yard or two over, while Callum Slattery had a free-kick from 25 yards saved by O’Malley with ten minutes remaining in the half.
Saints came even closer to getting themselves back into it within two minutes of the second half starting, as Alfie Jones sweetly struck a bouncing ball 20 yards out, only for O’Malley to tip it brilliantly over the bar.
Hunter’s side were looking stronger in the second half, although McCarthy had to be alert to divert a Morias effort wide, as he threatened to break clear, before saving from Andrew Hughes’s header.
The first changes came just after the hour, as Saints sent on Michael Obafemi for Marcus Barnes, while Peterborough withdrew Morias and Michael Doughty at the same time, bringing on Jack Marriott and Jermaine Anderson.
McCarthy was called into action in the 69th minute, making an excellent save to tip a Tafazolli header around the post, before Marriott wasted an opportunity to beat him moments later, firing wide as he ran through one-on-one.
Marriott then spurned an even better opportunity, as Hughes flicked on a corner to him at the back post, but, from only three yards out, he sent his half-volley flying over the bar.
Saints then made another change, as Nathan Tella was introduced for Tyreke Johnson, but they couldn't find a way through, as Peterborough took the points.
Tests against Cambridge United and Northampton Town – both away from home – now await Southampton, as they look to keep their hopes of reaching the knockout stages alive.
Conor O'Malley (GK)
Jack Baldwin (C)
Junior MoriasJack Marriott (62′)
Leo Da Silva LopesLiam Shephard (76′)
Michael DoughtyJermaine Anderson (61′)
Alex McCarthy (GK)
Alfie Jones (C)
Tyreke JohnsonNathan Tella (76′)
Jonathan AfolabiWill Smallbone (90′)
Marcus BarnesMichael Obafemi (62′)