Reading’s Under-23s were defeated 4-0 on the first evening of the Premier League 2 season, as Southampton ran riot at St Mary’s.
In a fixture between two youth sides, a bit of experience told for the Saints – Denmark international Pierre Hojbjerg was pulling the strings in midfield and between the sticks was Alex McCarthy, a product of the Royals Academy and eight years a servant at Madejski Stadium.
Reading had begun the brighter – 16-year-old forward Danny Loader turned a speculative ball into a good opportunity with his persistence, allowing Josh Barrett to take over and chip over for Ade Shokunbi, who was just beaten to the ball at the back post.
But then the hosts began to take control and opened the scoring on 15 minutes – Tyreke Johnson squeezing in from close range as the ball was swung in from the right.
Goalkeeper George Legg was responsible for keeping the score down just a single goal with a couple of terrific saves just moments apart – firstly as Matt Targett’s deep free-kick threatened to get through the crowd and squeeze inside the far post, and then when Marcus Barnes’ point-blank header was kept out with lightning reactions.
But then Jonathan Afolabi notched his first of the night, nodding in Johnson’s inswinging delivery from deep at the near post with Legg stranded.
Soon after half-time, a third followed for the Saints when Royals skipper Gabriel Osho inadvertently turned Richard Bakary’s cross into his own net. Josh Barrett went on a bold run in an attempt to reduce the arrears, but his hammered shot from outside the area was into McCarthy’s arms.
Instead it was Afolabi who added Saints’ fourth and his second – he could hardly miss when Johnson delivered a peach of a delivery for him to stride onto and stroke home first time.
Ryan East had a chance to pull back a consolatory goal when he picked off a loose goal-kick – dribbling goalwards, the move broke down when he pulled a left-footed shot past the near post.
And Barnes was denied a fifth for the hosts in stoppage time as Legg made a sprawling save, with the Saints forward having been released down the inside-right.
Full-time: Southampton U23 4-0 Reading U23
Southampton U23: McCarthy, Bakary (Rowthorn 85), Targett, Little, Cook, Jones, Barnes, Hojbjerg, Afolabi (Hale 79), Slattery, Johnson.
Unused subs: Rose, Wood, Smallbone.
Reading U23: Legg, Howe, Medford-Smith, Osho, Andresson, East, Shokunbi (Holmes 60), Barrett (Rollinson 60), Frost (House 81), Holsgrove, Loader.