Reds qualify for knockout stages of Checkatrade Trophy despite defeat at St Mary's
Reds will be away from home in the second round of the Checkatrade Trophy, which is made at 10.30am on Thursday, after they were pushed into second place in Group E with defeat at St Mary’s.
Southampton’s impressive under-21s topped the group after a comfortable 4-0 victory over a much-changed Crawley side on Wednesday night.
Reds made a terrible start when goalkeeper Yusuf Mersin punched a corner into his own net after three minutes and it was 3-0 by the break following further goals by Siph Mdlalose (9 mins) and Callum Slattery (38). Despite plenty of pressure in the second half Reds couldn’t find a way back and Olufela Olomola scored the goal of the night with a lovely volley in the 78th minute to make it 4-0.
The main consolation for Head Coach Dermot Drummy was a return to action for Jordan Roberts and Addison Garnett after injury and more minutes for Matt Harrold.
Crawley made six changes to the side which drew with Bristol Rovers in the FA Cup on Saturday. Competition rules demanded that five of the last XI started so Enzio Boldewijn, Bobson Bawling, captain for the night Billy Clifford, Andre Blackman and Kaby Djalo all started.
Garnett, who has yet to start a competitive game for Reds, was on the bench alongside Roberts, who made a welcome return to the squad after injury.
Reds made the worst possible start, conceding after just three minutes. Mersin came to punch away a left-wing corner by Josh Sims under no pressure but only directed it into his own net – a horrible moment for the Turkish goalkeeper.
Six minutes later there was another calamity in the visitors defence with Pappoe the culprit this time. He gave the ball away outside the box to Sims whose cross was headed powerfully past a helpless Mersin by Mdlalose.
Reds changed to a 4-4-1-1 formation with Jason Banton playing just off Adi Yussuf and started to look a bit more threatening. One great ball in by Arjan Tajbakhsh was sliced behind by a Saints defender for a corner which Pappoe headed a yard or so wide.
The impressive Sims had a goal disallowed in the 28th minute after picking his way through the Crawley defence only to be denied by an offside flag before Banton’s pass picked out Adi Yussuf in the box but his angled effort hit the side netting.
A third of the way through and it had least become more of an even contest but that illusion, for Reds fans at least, was shattered with the concession of a third goal in the 34th minute. Sims was again the architect with an unchecked run into the box and when he played the ball across goal there were two unmarked team-mates with Slattery eventually squeezing his shot inside the far post, possibly via a deflection off Arthur to make it 3-0.
And it would have been four on the stroke of half-time had Mersin not spread himself well to block Mdlalose’s close-range volley.
Garnett made his full debut as a half-time replacement for Arthur and five minutes into the second period Matt Harrold replaced Clifford and took over as captain.
Reds then enjoyed their best spell of the game. Bawling couldn’t keep his header from Boldewijn’s cross down, Yussuf saw his shot charged down and Boldewijn had two penalty appeals for handball, after crosses had been blocked, waved away by referee Keith Stroud. Saints keeper Harry Lewis then got fully behind Tajbakhsh’s free kick and a header from Harrold.
Little had been seen of Saints as an attacking force in the second half but they stretched their lead with 12 minutes to go. Sims was the creator again with a ball whipped in from the left and Olomola produced a finish to match, swivelling to hit a volley which Mersin got a hand to but couldn’t prevent from going in off the post.
If anyone deserved a goal it was Sims, but Mersin spread himself well to save his right-foot shot five minutes from time.