On Friday evening I made the short trip to Bournemouth with a mixture of Bournemouth and Southampton fans, where we watched the Southampton Under-23s in action against Bournemouth’s Under-21s at the Vitality Stadium in the Premier League Cup.
Whilst at first this may just seem like a futile youth cup game on a bitterly cold evening, it was certainly not, especially in the eyes of the Bournemouth home crowd. With three and a half thousand tickets sold, two stands opened, and a lively home crowd eager to get one over their South Coast rivals, the anticipation epitomised how much Bournemouth hate Southampton.
The Saints youngsters had suffered just one defeat in their last five matches, and this was reflected in a dominant first half-performance in which the visitors spurned some gilt-edged chances. Attacking midfielder Kornelius Hansen jinked past a couple of Cherries defenders before firing wide from close range, before Dan N’Lundulu blazed his effort over the bar from similar proximity. Will Ferry then saw a flicked effort hit the post, as the score somehow remained goalless.
The hosts’ best chance of the half fell to Sam Surridge, who previously had a productive loan spell at Swansea earlier this season. The England U-21 striker’s curling effort was acrobatically tipped around the post by Saints goalkeeper Jack Bycroft.
Ferry, who looked a menace throughout the first half, won possession deep in Bournemouth’s half, and his cross was met by Hansen with a simple tap in to give the Saints a deserved lead. One should have become two for the visitors shortly after when Kazeem Olaigbe fired wide from N’Lundulu’s lay-off.
The Cherries looked a different side after the break in what came to be a game of two halves. Surridge again came close when he found room in the box, but was denied by a heroic last-ditch challenge from Jake Vokins, who had scored on his first Saints start in the FA Cup match against Huddersfield last month.
The hosts levelled proceedings on the hour mark when Zemura latched onto Kyle Taylor’s clever pass and guided the ball calmly past Bycroft. The Saints then halted Bournemouth’s momentum with a second goal in the final fifteen minutes. Jacob Maddox provided an exquisite pass for Kpohomouh, who made no mistake in firing home.
The Cherries appeared to have more left in the tank, and stunned the Saints with a last-gasp comeback. Fine finishes from first-team players Jordan Ibe and Surridge completed a dramatic Bournemouth comeback, who had been on the brink of defeat with just quarter of an hour left.
Whilst defeat will be somewhat painful for Southampton fans, the first team compensated for this defeat with a crucial 2-0 victory over Aston Villa at the St Mary’s. This game nevertheless perfectly sets up the first team’s reverse fixture on May 9, where the Saints travel to the Vitality Stadium seeking to compound Bournemouth’s relegation fears.