Tadanari Lee netted twice as Southampton’s Development Squad recorded a 2-2 draw in their Barclays Under-21 Premier League clash with Blackburn Rovers at Staplewood.
After dominating for lengthy periods in the first half, Saints found themselves fighting off a resurgent Rovers side who levelled the scoring on two occasions to cause concern for the hosts.
Monday night’s result proved to be the Under-21s’ first draw of the league campaign in what was an encouraging performance.
A relatively even opening to the encounter was starved of any goalmouth opportunities, with Omar Rowe providing the only test for either goalkeeper in the first 20 minutes.
Lloyd Isgrove raced away from John O’Sullivan with ease before whipping a cross for Rowe whose volley towards the near post was palmed wide by David Raya.
Rovers caught the hosts deep in defence but failed to capitalise when Victor Zapata-Caicedo ignored the opportunity to slide the ball through to O’Sullivan and instead sliced a 20-yard shot high and wide.
A tame effort from Rowe followed by a reverse shot from Lee that bobbled narrowly wide followed before the pair came agonisingly close to handing Saints the lead on the half-hour mark.
Rowe cut inside the area and slammed the ball straight at Raya before the ‘keeper heroically flung across the face of goal to block Lee’s rebounding drive from point-blank range.
Fortunately for the home side, their growing domination paid dividends when Raya was powerless to stop LEE from opening the scoring nine minutes after preventing him in such impressive fashion.
Ryan Seager surged through the heart of the visitors’ defence and his low effort ricocheted off the post and into the path of the well-placed Japanese, allowing him to calmly side-foot into the gaping net as Raya failed to recover in time.
HALF TIME: SOUTHAMPTON U21S 1-0 BLACKBURN ROVERS U21S
Unfortunately for the Saints, their first-half hard work was undone seven minutes after the restart when HUGO FERNANDEZ MOLINA drilled the visitors back on terms.
A fizzed cross found its way to the unmarked Spaniard at the back post; Molina swiftly drove the ball towards goal and Matt Targett was unfortunate not to thwart the youngster as the attempt cannoned off the defender on its journey into the net.
Southampton responded in exemplary circumstances as they took just three minutes to re-establish their lead after heavy pressing ensured the hosts had a chance to get a second.
The energetic Isgrove dispossessed Kellen Daly deep into Rovers’ half before pulling back for LEE to provide his side with another composed finish that snuck in at the near post.
A second half brimming with action did not relent in providing more drama as the visitors were awarded a penalty shortly after the hour mark when Jordan Turnbull shoved Brendon Daniels in the box.
Rovers captain O’SULLIVAN assumed the spot-kick duties and duly finished in a calm manner as he slotted into the bottom-right corner – sending Saints ‘keeper Paulo Gazzaniga the wrong way in the process.
With little over 20 minutes remaining, O’Sullivan threatened to gift the visitors the lead for the first time in the match but his shooting was more wayward on this occasion.
The midfielder twisted and turned his way into the box and weaved into space for a shot that he scooped well over the crossbar from an acute angle.
In a second period consisting of constant end-to-end battle, Saints fought back and nearly fashioned a goal that would have secured Lee a hat-trick.
Substitute Jake Sinclair skipped away from a challenge down the left flank before laying it across to Lee, allowing the 27-year-old to fire a rasping effort from the right wing that deflected and soared inches wide.
As the final whistle approached, Devarn Green wasted two glorious chances to steal all three points for the visitors.
From identical positions in the centre of the 18-yard-box, the youngster hit a tame effort that Gazzaniga comfortably controlled before Green then dragged an effort wide in added time to ensure the spoils were shared.
FULL TIME: SOUTHAMPTON U21S 2-2 BLACKBURN ROVERS U21S
Southampton Under-21s: Paulo Gazzaniga, Calum Chambers (Jason McCarthy 80), Matt Targett, Harrison Reed, Jack Stephens (c), Jordan Turnbull, Lloyd Isgrove, Jake Flannigan, Tadanari Lee, Ryan Seager (Dominic Gape 87), Omar Rowe (Jake Sinclair 53). Unused substitutes: Cody Cropper (GK), Andy Robinson.
Goals: Lee (40 & 55)