Southampton edged Middlesbrough in an all English clash in the Junior Bowl final at Anderson Park.
It was a game of few chances, however it was the Saints took the initiative early on. Isiah Jones drove at the Boro defence but his effort was well over the crossbar.
Joel Bagan was causing problems down the right flank, and his pin point delivery should have been turned in by the onrushing Vincente Besuijen, who could only head his effort wide of the target.
Bagan opened the scoring with a delightful finish midway through the opening period. Knott picked out the young winger on the edge of the box, with Bagan curling a superb effort with his left foot into the top corner.
Bagan had another effort, almost identical to the one he had finished minutes earlier, however he could only fire his shot over the crossbar. Bobby Jones could have found himself fortunate not to be sent off after he blocked off the advancing Troy Parrot. Referee, Declan Hassan, gave a free kick right on the edge of the box, with Jones cautioned for his tackle. Sean Brennan stepped up but his free kick soared over the bar.
Jones’ powerful running was proving effective for Southampton, and the winger was unlucky with drive that went straight at the keeper. At the other end of the pitch Terry Stephenson continued his impressive tournament with some strong running, but he couldn’t get the ball out of his feet to get a shot away. Harry Green had Middlesbrough’s first real effort on goal, but it was straight down the throat of the keeper.
With Southampton content with their goal advantage, the onus was on Middlesbrough to try and force the issue in the second half. This led to increased possession but they struggled to open up the Southampton defence.
Bagan nearly raced through again but a perfectly timed tackle by Stephenson stopped the Saints winger getting a shot on goal. At the other end Middlesbrough felt they should have had a penalty, but Hassan waved their appeals away.
With Middlesbrough creating little, the game petered out. Southampton still created two chances of note, Parrot had a good chance when through one on one with Jones, with Besuijen having a similar chance soon after. The Middlesbrough stopper was equal to the task of both occasions.
By Andy Gray (@AndyGrayNI)