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The Southampton academy round-up: Week 4

A mixed bag as our boys sample victory and defeat in this week's academy round up

Southampton v Blackburn Rovers - Under 21 Premier League Cup Final Second Leg Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

We start last night with the under 23's in the oddly titled Premier League 2: Division 1. Our oldest academy team welcomed their counterparts from Reading hoping to bounce back from their first set back of the season in Sunderland. It was a result suffered whilst many of the usual starters were rested in favour of the check-a-trade trophy. two days later. Quite why a tournament praised for giving the academy lads more games was scheduled so closely to a league game is still a mystery.

The Premier League 2 is a funny animal. Each club handles the competition in its own way and a quick look at the team sheets last night suggested it was going to be a long night for the "royals" of Reading. Jaap Stam has taken over the first team in Berkshire amidst a lot of hype about "promoting the youth" but he then proceeded to buy a whole new team's worth of players and the pathway seems to have been blocked at this early stage of the season. Maybe it's a Dutch thing. Thanks Koeman.

Any thought of this meaning a strong side would visit Staplewood is ended when you see the loans out section of their summer transfer business. Meanwhile expected loan departures for our young saints never materialised. So a team of Reading players unable to get into a championship side faced a team of Southampton players many of whom look like they could be quite handy at that level.

And that was the story of the first half.

Sims, Isgrove and Hesketh sat behind Olomola spent the first 45 minutes absolutely terrorising the Reading defence. The blue and white hoops tried to play their brand of "ajax" football, passing it out from the back but were repeatedly thwarted by their superior opposition. If they did get past the front four then Reed and O'Connor were there to get the ball back quickly.

As you can see from the highlights below their was only one possible man of the match and that was the Reading keeper Stuart Moore.

It was Alfie Jones that bundled in the opener. A scrappy goal from a corner not at all in keeping with the purring performance the kids were putting on. How the scored remained 1-0 at break was anyone's guess. Hesketh was pulling the strings, Isgrove and Sims ripping their full backs to shreds. Countless chances were scuffed or completely fluffed and when a good connection was made the keeper would pull off a sensational save with any part of his body. Olafela Olomola in particular will be gutted he didn't make the most of some fine chances laid on a plate for him.

In the second half two changes and a rise in tempo put Reading back in a game they had no right to be competing in. But Sims was an ever present threat and added his 3rd goal of the season after sumptuous control and turn by Hesketh to set him up.

As the game came to close Reading looked the more threatening and although they deserved the goal that came. If they had followed it up with an equaliser then Martin Hunter would have been fuming.

As it was, the final goal come from another set piece. Thomas O'Connor was on corner duties from the right and delivered quality all night. He is a 17 year old that has earned his starting role this summer and looks a massive talent. Never rushed, a brilliant distributor. One for our Irish fans to keep an eye on.

His left footed corner found its way through a crowd of players in the Reading box where Sims gobbled up his 2nd of the night, 4th of the campaign. He is now the leading scorer in the league.

Over in North London on Saturday our under 18s squad fell to Arsenal like their senior counterparts. This one was a bit more straight forward than the controversial match at the Emirates.

Arsenal's academy used be so good they would terrify lower league teams in the carling cup. More recently they are a football club more renowned for ruining our talent than producing any players of quality.

Things might be changing as they top the league and put the sword to our youngsters this weekend. The highlights show we had some chances but the gunners were too strong.

Never fear, it's been a decent start for our under 18s in this campaign. They are a lot stronger than last year's vintage and still sit comfortably in mid table.

Finally lets have a look at our loan players. We have one in each division of the football league.

In the Championship Sam Gallagher looks to be turning into a bit of a beast. He had a brilliant header cleared off the line in the first half against QPR. It was reminiscent of his first goal of the season, a powerful header, and could be a sign the youngster is finally learning how to harness the power in his giant frame.

In the second half Gallagher added his second of the season with this beautiful looping header.

Blackburn currently sit bottom of the table and Sam has been a rare bright spot for fans who continue to wage a war against their owners.

Down in league one it was another defeat for Jason McCarthy's adopted Saddlers. It was a result that has done little to convince the fans of their manager's competence and one of the areas of criticism is McCarthy's role in the centre of defence. Jason gave away a penalty this weekend to make the score 2-0 and the fans are calling for him to return to a right back berth.

" McCarthy has been quite poor at CB recently, he seemingly can't win a header to save his life."

"McCarthy - Struggled so far but he's not a CB, that's quite clear."

The previous week one review was:

"McCarthys poor ability in the air contributes to all 3 Bury goals! He did ok at full back, but I don't think he's the answer at centre half."

So testing times for Jason in the midlands but this is why players have loan spells.

Finally we have another former U21's captain on loan. Dominic Gape got his first football league start at the weekend. Unfortunately being on loan in league two takes you to some ramshackle, dank stadiums in places where you don't even realise they know how to kick a ball. This week it was Portsmouth and the Gape's Wanderers lost 4-2. After the match Wycombe boss was glowing about his new saint's performance and what his fans can expect.

“Dominic had a great debut. He was outstanding and looks very much like Josh Scowen, who we had in the middle a couple of years ago, and that's very positive for me."

Scowen is a Wycombe academy product and former fan favourite who is now plying his trade in the championship for Barnsley, so it's quite the compliment.

“He's a scamperer in midfield, gets around the pitch, has got plenty of pace and wins a lot of headers for such a small bloke.

“He's also got a hell of a shot on him as we've already seen, and I think he will get better and better. He's absolutely buzzing to be here and we're lucky to have him.”

Ainsworth thinks Dominic's loan time in Buckinghamshire will be mutually benefical.

“Dominic has been in the U21s for too long. He needs men's football, like Jason did last year, and hopefully he can be as big a player for us.”