Saints and Chelsea couldn’t be separated at St Mary’s in an entertaining goalless draw in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League on Monday night.
Although scoreless, it was a spirited encounter that both teams had chances in, but neither side could make a breakthrough as the points were shared.
Saints’ best opportunities in the game came the way of Sam Gallagher who flashed a low shot wide early on, with the striker also missing a late penalty after he had been brought down inside the area.
However, it will be the defensive work in this game that will have pleased Technical Director Martin Hunter the most, as Saints kept a lively Blues forward line in-check throughout the 90 minutes.
Hunter handed 15 year-old Jake Vokins a third start at left back while fellow under-18s Thomas O’Connor and Olufela Olomola were also named in the starting line-up for a successive U21s game.
Gallagher and O’Connor got a competitive half of action under way with the hosts making a bright start to the contest, and an opportunity coming their way as early as the third minute of play.
It arrived when skipper Dominic Gape’s pass was deflected fortuitously into the path of Sam Gallagher on the right side of the penalty area, and the striker swept a low shot wide of the left post when one-on-one with Chelsea ‘keeper Bradley Collins.
Chelsea soon made their presence felt in the game and made Collins’ opposite number Gazzaniga work to keep out efforts from Alex Kiwomya and Mason Mount, who each attempted shots from range.
Gallagher was the focal point of Saints’ attack and he charged down a clearance from Collins which almost embarrassed the Chelsea man, but the ball dropped wide of his net with 18 minutes on the watch.
Saints kept the ball well as they sought a hold on possession when the opportunity came.
The hosts ended the half with the better of the chances in the game too.
A 31st minute corner from Vokins arched over to the far post where O’Connor saw a close range header saved by Collins.
Good link-up in the 34th minute saw Jake Hesketh and Harrison Reed create an opening for Gallagher who this time was denied from close range by Collins, with the ball squirming back out to Little, but the midfielder fired wide of the target.
Right at the end of the half, another cleared corner fell to Hesketh who curled a shot from distance into the grateful arms of Collins which meant that the opening 45 minutes ended goalless.
Chelsea made a change at the interval with Reece Mitchell entering the action in place of Josimar Quintero, with the game picking up from where it left off, with an open style from both teams.
Saints won a free-kick on 49 minutes when Gallagher was brought down just as he was about to pull the trigger on a shot. The resulting set-piece was swung in by Vokins, but caught with ease by Collins.
The hosts went close again from another free-kick soon after when Hesketh delivered a ball in from a little further out, which both Alfie Jones and Ollie Cook were close to connecting with inside the six yard area.
Clear chances remained at a premium, with Chelsea making their third substitution just moments after Mount rushed a shot that flew way over the crossbar.
Chelsea had a couple of half chances thereafter, with Kasey Palmer’s corner headed over by substitute Tammy Abraham, while Alex Kiwomya was unfortunate not to see his volley bounce into the ground and spin wide as play entered the final ten minutes.
Saints were handed a chance to win it in the 82nd minute when Gallagher was bundled over inside the area by Chelsea captain Fankaty Dabo for a penalty.
Gallagher elected for power and put his kick over the crossbar.
In stoppage time at the other end Abraham struck a late effort against the post while Kiwomya hit a low shot at Gazzaniga, as both teams settled for the draw.
Southampton U21 team (4-2-3-1): Paulo Gazzaniga, Dominic Gape (c), Ollie Cook, Alfie Jones, Jake Vokins; Harrison Reed, Armani Little; Jake Hesketh, Thomas O’Connor (Josh Sims 73), Olufela Olomola; Sam Gallagher. Unused substitutes: Harry Lewis (GK), Yan Valery, Dan N’Lundulu, Richard Bakary
Chelsea U21 team (4-3-3): Bradley Collins; Fankaty Dabo (c), Ola Aina (Fikayo Tomori 66), Dion Conroy, Kevin Wright; Charlie Colkett (Tammy Abraham 60), Josimar Quintero (Reece Mitchell 46), Jordan Houghton; Alex Kiwomya, Kasey Palmer, Mason Mount. Unused substitutes: Jared Thompson (GK), Kyle Scott
Referee: Adam Ricketts