YOUTH REPORT: SOUTHAMPTON 2 CHELSEA 1
The youth team went down to their second successive defeat on the road as a young team were beaten on the rain-lashed South coast.
Ryan Seager put the hosts in front a few minutes before the break before Jake Flannigan doubled the young Saints' advantage early in the second half. Adi Viveash's side pulled a goal back from the penalty spot through captain Charlie Colkett (pictured top), after Chike Kandi had been upended from behind but, despite heavy pressure throughout the remaining half hour, the Blues were unable to find a breakthrough for the equaliser.
Viveash made seven changes from the side that were beaten 2-0 at West Ham last weekend, with three schoolboys involved from the start. Full-backs Jay Dasilva and Fikayo Tomori have both impressed for Joe Edwards's Under-16s this term and were rewarded with starts in defence, alongside George Brady and fellow schoolboy Jake Clarke-Salter.
Colkett skippered the side from midfield, forming the central trio along with Kasey Palmer and Jordan Houghton. Bradley Collins kept his place in goal, while there was a start up front for Chike Kandi, supported from out wide by George Cole and Reece Mitchell.
The young Blues started the game brightly, with efforts inside the opening 10 minutes from the head of Mitchell after Cole's free kick delivery from wide left, and from Colkett after Mitchell had cut the ball back cleverly after beating Tom Leggett down the Chelsea left flank.
Kyle Clinton did well to deny the galloping Tomori with a well-timed sliding challenge as the right-back burst forward, while down the other end Josh Sims headed narrowly wide as a corner was whipped in from the right.
However, the visitors' positive start to proceedings was not rewarded with an early lead and Southampton began to settle down and assert themselves. Armani Little fired a free kick just over Collins' crossbar after some confusion as the referee awarded the Saints a set-piece for an off-the-ball altercation, before a long period of the game in which chances were hard to come by.
Both teams looked confident on the ball, despite the occasionally adverse weather conditions, though both were also defending stubbornly and chances were proving difficult to fashion, though the deadlock was eventually broken a few minutes before the interval.
Ryan Seager benefited from some positive play from Jason Dodd's side and found some rare space among the Blues rearguard, eventually finishing smartly beyond Collins low and into the bottom far corner to give his side the advantage at a crucial moment in the game.
Viveash made a switch at the break, introducing the creative Charly Musonda in place of Clarke-Salter, who had struggled to shake off a knock sustained during the first period. Houghton moved deeper to partner Brady in central defence as Musonda looked to influence the game in the final third.
It was a positive change from the visitors and their play immediately reflected the added impetus as Palmer advanced down the left side and was only denied by an excellent sliding tackle behind for a corner.
Colkett had a low free-kick comfortably gathered by James White in the Saints goal before the hosts doubled their advantage as Jake Flannigan finished off a good move with a confident finish at the front post on the swivel.
That prompted another change from Viveash as he quickly introduced top goalscorer Dominic Solanke. The schoolboy striker had been away on international duty earlier in the week, scoring twice for the England Under-17s in a 2-1 win over their Belgian counterparts, and was being called upon again to help fire his side back into this match.
Just a few minutes after replacing Cole there was an opening for Solanke as White presented him with a golden chance after a poor pass out from the back by the goalkeeper. The forward advanced menacingly towards goal, only for White to make amends with a good save down low with his feet.
It wasn't long, though, before Chelsea did haul themselves back into the game with a goal. Kandi (pictured above) was taken out from behind inside the penalty area as he lined up to shoot and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Captain Colkett stepped up and remained calm and collected as the rain lashed down and the wind swirled, sending White the wrong way and tucking the ball away into the bottom right corner for his second goal of the campaign.
That gave the visitors new life and the remaining half hour consisted of heavy pressure from the boys in blue as they desperately looked for a leveller. Their two best chances to snatch a point came in a two-minute spell around the 75-minute mark. Palmer did well to round the goalkeeper after Chelsea's best move of the game, involving Musonda and Solanke, but could only fire towards goal tamely and the recovering defender cleared the danger.
Solanke then appeared to have the ball in the back of the net himself at the far post, with White desperately scrambling around behind his line, though the officials deemed the ball did not cross the line and allowed play to continue.
Collins intervened down the other end, remaining alert to deny substitute Marcus Barnes' dangerous centre from the right, while Sims and Barnes fired over the bar as the Saints looked to kill the game off on the break.
Colkett dictated play from deep in the final quarter of an hour, acting as a playmaker in keeping the ball moving and sending attacking waves forward, though the home side's defence stood firm in the face of pressure.
White saved well up high from Mitchell and Jason McCarthy defended the six-yard box excellently as Kandi fired a fizzing effort across the face of goal having beaten former Chelsea defender Josh Debayo. However, for all the visiting side's efforts to take a point back up the M3, Southampton defended resolutely and claimed the victory.
Next up for the youth team is a home league game against Wolverhampton Wanderers, scheduled for a midday kick-off on Tuesday 11 February at Cobham.
Chelsea Bradley Collins; Fikayo Tomori, George Brady, Jake Clarke-Salter (Charly Musonda h/t), Jay Dasilva; Jordan Houghton (Kyle Scott '60), Charlie Colkett (c), Kasey Palmer; George Cole (Dominic Solanke '57), Reece Mitchell, Chike Kandi
Unused subs Jordan Beeney, Ruben Sammut
Scorer Colkett 62
Southampton James White, Tom Leggett (c), Isaac Nehemie, Niall Mason, Kyle Clinton, Jason McCarthy, Josh Sims, Armani Little, Jake Hesketh (Marcus Barnes '54), Jake Flannigan, Ryan Seager (Josh Debayo '60)
Unused subs Harry Isted, Mark Irvine, Will Wood
Scorers Seager 42, Flannigan 56
By Sam Poplett
Pictures courtesy of Mark Sandom