A breathless Sam Gallagher declared his spectacular winner in the Under-21 Premier League Cup final the best of his career so far as Southampton lifted the trophy at St Mary’s.
The 19 year-old’s goal, which came three minutes into the first period of extra time, gave Saints the lead for the second time in the game in front of over 12,000 supporters.
And, after a Matt Targett own goal had cancelled out Ryan Seager’s opener, Gallagher’s strike gave the hosts an advantage that they didn’t relinquish, allowing skipper Jason McCarthy to lift the cup on home soil.
“I was so glad for it to happen when it did and I can’t believe it really, it’s amazing,” the striker told Southampton’s official YouTube channel.
“Unbelievable. Me and Sam McQueen have been trying to hit them from distance for a while, but I haven’t tried one with my left, and thankfully it came off.
“Without a doubt my favourite goal that I’ve ever scored, and I won’t forget it.
“I’ve never really had a chance to pick up a trophy or get a medal or whatever, so for that it’s just a whole new experience and one I won’t forget.”
Martin Hunter’s side rose to the big occasion at St Mary’s, and were cheered on by a bumper crowd as they crowned a fine cup run in the perfect way.
Gallagher said the atmosphere created by the noisy fans went close to rivalling that of a first team game.
“It was amazing. Throughout the week we were seeing the amount of tickets rising and rising,” he said.
“We knew we were going to have a big crowd, but for them to make noise like they did tonight as well, it felt like a Saturday afternoon Premier League game, so it was amazing.”
Saints looked to be up against it when Targett put through his own goal and Harrison Reed was red-carded within the last 21 minutes of normal time.
But the win, Gallagher says was just rewards for the perseverance and character they had to show in order to see off Eric Kinder’s Rovers.
“We didn’t expect to concede really, and then when we had Harry get sent off we just felt it sort of lessened our chances a little bit, but we kept going, and that’s what happens,” he said.
“I think it just sort of shows that what we do, the pressure that does get put on us and everything, we deserve it, and I think we handled it really well – all the lads – and I cant believe it.”