Southampton had to grind out a hard-earned point against Tottenham Hotspur at St Mary’s on Monday night.
Martin Hunter’s side, for whom Ryan Bertrand played the first 45 minutes, will be satisfied with the clean sheet that secured them their fourth draw of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League campaign, but may also feel as though they could have taken a couple more points from this testing encounter.
Ugo Ehiogu’s Tottenham side went into the game at St Mary’s with a relatively meagre goal tally, having registered just seventeen goals from their eleven games so far – the lowest total in the top half of the league.
They came to St Mary’s, however, with a watertight backline. The fourteen goals Spurs have conceded puts them second in the list of meanest defences in the Barclays under-21 Premier League, and that was in evidence during the opening exchanges.
Saints’ strong-looking strikeforce, which comprised of Sam Gallagher, Ryan Seager, Lloyd Isgrove and Jake Sinclair, applied plenty of pressure, though Spurs’ commanding defensive duo of Bongani Khumalo – an established South African international – and Cameron Carter-Vickers weathered much of the early storm.
The first real chance fell to Seager, who forced Luke McGee into a fine save from the left-hand side of the box with seven minutes on the clock. The rebound didn’t fall kindly for the forward, as the considerable frame of Khumalo intervened to nod behind.
Striker Shaquile Coulthirst appeared to be a mobile danger for the visitors, who troubled Paulo Gazzaniga with a Will Miller drive after quarter of an hour but struggled otherwise to make much headway in the final third.
Part of that may have been down to Hunter being able to field a Champions League winner in his back four. Left-back Bertrand – who picked up that trophy with Chelsea back in 2012 – showed some nice touches ahead of his probable return to Ronald Koeman’s first team and provided another attacking outlet on the flank. His inviting centre picked out Sinclair at the far post, but the wideman’s effort at goal was charged down.
Sinclair was first to test the Spurs rearguard after the break too, after some fine interplay between Gallagher and Seager just inside the Tottenham half. The latter found Sinclair on the left, but he was crowded out and the danger cleared.
Gazzaniga, who was afforded a relatively quiet evening, had to tip Kyle Walker-Peters’ stinging strike over the bar and turn round a Harry Winks curler as the north Londoners enjoyed a spell of dominace late in the game, though it was Sinclair once more who went close, blazing over after some direct play from substitute Josh Sims down the right-hand side.
A delightful flick from Winks gave Miller another sight of goal with just under 10 minutes left, but the wayward drive didn’t trouble Saints’ Argentine custodian and the spoils were shared, leaving both teams still firmly in the race for top spot in the league table.
Southampton: Paulo Gazzaniga, Niall Mason, Jason McCarthy ©, Will Wood, Ryan Bertrand (Bevis Mugabi 46), Harrison Reed, Dom Gape, Ryan Seager, Lloyd Isgrove (Josh Sims 46), Jake Sinclair, Sam Gallagher (Jake Hesketh 73).
Unused substitutes: Will Britt, Olufela Olomola.
Yellow card: Harrison Reed (70)
Tottenham Hotspur: Luke McGee, Kyle Walker-Peters, Connor Ogilvie (Alex McQueen 76), Grant Ward, Bongani Khumalo ©, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Ruben Lameiras, Harry Winks, Shaquile Coulthirst (Daniel Akindayini 64), Joshua Onomah, Will Miller (Aaron McEneff 83).
Unused substitutes: Jonathan Miles, Filip Lesniak.