A first half brace from Dominic Ballard secured a routine win for high-flying Southampton over Fulham’s under 18s at the Staplewood Training Centre this afternoon.

Fulham struggled to get their fluent passing game going for much of the afternoon and it was the home side who had the better of the early chances. Saints went close through Tyler Dibling after the winger had drifted in from the right flank and Ballard blasted an effort straight at Xavier Benjamin before Alex Borto produced a brilliant reaction stop to keep out Kamari Doyle’s fine volley.

The hosts were now putting the Fulham goal under significant pressure and it was no surprise when they took the lead after 26 minutes. Ballard had the simplest of tasks to slot home after Cameron Bragg’s venomous drive from distance had rattled the crossbar and the young Whites were indebted to some calm defending from Benjamin, which prevented Doyle from doubling the Southampton advantage.

But Ali Melloul’s men did go further behind just before the interval. Dibling darted past Luc de Fougerolles and squared for Ballard, who stroked home his seventh goal of the season. Southampton were well on top and might have added to their advantage after the break but Luke Pearce shot straight at Borto from a promising position, whilst Doyle drove a free-kick just wide of the target.

Fulham struggled for openings in the final third during a second half which the home side controlled, despite Melloul sending on Lemar Gordon, Stefan Parkes and Terrell Works as substitutes. He will hope that the young Whites can pick themselves up ahead of Friday’s third round FA Youth Cup tie at Everton.

SOUTHAMPTON UNDER 18s (4-2-3-1): Beach; Payne, Carson, Pambou, Squires (Wright 67); Hewlett, Bragg (Lett 89); Dibling, Doyle, Pearce; Ballard (Ross-Lang 76). Subs (not used): Adli, Morgan.

BOOKED: Payne.

GOALS: Ballard (26, 41).

FULHAM (4-3-3): Borto; Tanton, de Fougerolles (Parkes 55), Benjamin, Araujo; Okkas, Parker (Works 77), Lanquedoc; Wildbore, Olakigbe (Gordon 60), Sanderson. Subs (not used): Allen, Gofford.

BOOKED: Tanton.