Fulham under 23’s run of ten league wins in a row came to an abrupt end at AFC Totton last night as Southampton beat Steve Wigley’s side 2-1.
Strikes from Dom Ballard and Kazeem Olaigbe secured a surprise win for a young Saints side, who enjoyed the better of the second period after Fulham’s probing passing had been prominent in the first 45 minutes. Ballard produced an impudent chip over the returning Luca Ashby-Hammond after beating Idris Odutayo to a through ball to give the home side the lead, and although substitute Jean-Pierre Tiehi equalised within five minutes, Olaigbe fired a fine finish into the top corner from Luke Pearce’s pass to seal victory with two minutes to play.
This was a disappointing result for Fulham, who have built up a massive lead at the top of the Second Division table following an outstanding run of form. They failed to capitalise on their dominance in the first period with Sylvester Jasper, back in the starting line-up after returning from his loan at Colchester, testing Ollie Wright with an early shot. Sonny Hilton spurned two good opportunities to give the visitors the lead, shooting just wide from the edge of the area midway through the first half way and then somehow shooting over from close range after great interplay with Ollie O’Neill.
Southampton were far more adventurous after the interval. Odutayo cleared off the line to deny Sonny Davis and Ashby-Hammond saved simply after an excellent individual run from Kamari Doyle. An enterprising run from Olaigbe saw the winger tee up Cam Bragg, whose effort was deflected wide. Ashby-Hammond was called into action again when he made a quick double save after Smith had been sent through on goal.
Fulham were largely threatening on the break at this point with Kieron Bowie being denied an opener by a brilliant Wright save and O’Neill almost surprising the Saints goalkeeper with a looping cross. But it was Southampton who took the lead with nineteen minutes left as Ballard lifted the ball over the advancing Ashby-Hammond after the Fulham defence were caught horribly square. The Londoners levelled almost immediately as Tiehi nodded in a Hilton corner, but Olaigbe snatched the win for Saints in the dying stages of a close contest.
SOUTHAMPTON B (4-2-3-1): Wright; Otseh-Taiwo, Payne, Hewlett, Chauke; Burnett (Davis 45), Turner (Bragg 52); Ballard, Doyle, Olaigbe; Smith (Pearce 79). Subs (not used): Mohamed, Tshaka.
GOALS: Ballard (71), Olaigbe (87).
FULHAM UNDER 23s (4-2-3-1): L. Ashby-Hammond; D’Auria-Henry, Larkeche, C. Robinson, Odutayo; Pajaziti (Page 76), Dibley-Dias; Hilton, O’Neill, Jasper (Harris 60); Bowie (Tiehi 67). Subs (not used): Borto, Bowat.
BOOKED: Dibley-Dias, Harris.
GOAL: Tiehi (76).