Omar Rowe and Harrison Reed scored impressive goals as Saints Under-21s beat Newcastle United 3-2 at St Mary’s in the Under-21 Premier League this afternoon.
In what could be the youngsters’ final match of the season, Martin Hunter’s side came back from conceding within two minutes of the start to score three.
Rowe’s brace and a wonderfully taken effort from outside the box by Reed meant the St Mary’s outfit cling on to fourth place and potential progression to the Final stage of the competition.
Their advancement to that stage, however, depends heavily on what the teams around them do, with many of them having several games in hand.
The home side were almost ahead within the first minute as Rowe, impressive all afternoon, made a darting run into the box before crossing to Sam Gallagher, whose shot was tipped out for a corner.
The Magpies were then ahead, directly via a break from the clearance, as Liam Smith knocked into an empty net.
Goalkeeper Ted Smith’s parry, from Michael Richardson’s shot, fell into the Newcastle winger's path, as the Saints defence were helpless to prevent him from firing home.
Smith, the custodian on trial from Southend, was called into action again as the Magpies’ Smith put the ball in from the wing. It skimmed off the crossbar with the young ‘keeper tipping the away from his net.
Saints started to settle in, and the scorching equaliser from the captain, Reed, soon followed.
An attack down the right wing by Gallagher saw the ball come out to the stocky midfielder, as Peter Beardsley’s side attempted to clear their lines. He then struck a wonderful 25-yard drive past the outstretched arm of Jonathan Mitchell into the bottom left of the net to level the match.
Rowe made up for a wasteful cross by chasing what seemed to be a lost cause for Saints’ second. Macauley Gillesphey’s back pass from the edge of the box was completely misjudged and allowed the tricky attacker to latch on to the stray ball, which had left Mitchell out of position, and curled into the net with aplomb after 17 minutes.
The second Newcastle was almost a carbon copy of the first, Gael Bigirimana took advantage of some sloppy keeping from Smith, after he parried from Richardson’s shot, and the 20-year-old slotted in – 2-2.
It was on the brink of the half that the brightest spell of Saints possession ended in a glorious team goal. Jordan Turnbull played out from the back to Matt Targett, who travelled with the ball before tapping to Sam McQueen who crossed accurately, looping it into the box.
The poise and ability of Rowe was outstanding as he darted into the box, volleying into the back of the net from six yards to gift Saints the lead at the break.
He continued his fine performance after the restart, firstly by twisting and turning his way into the box causing havoc in the Magpies' backline and then delivering a cross, which was almost bundled into the back of the net by a combination of Gallagher and Kyle Cameron, but it went wide.
Rowe was close to his hat-trick with 15 minutes left, he cut in from the left and unleashed powerful drive that was tipped over by Mitchell.
A late effort by Jake Hesketh saw Mitchell struggle to gather the ball in as Gallagher looked to pounce, luckily for the stopper he managed to dive on it.
Saints: Ted Smith, Jake Flannigan, Matt Targett, Dominic Gape, Jason McCarthy, Jordan Turnbull, Omar Rowe ( Jake Hesketh 87), Harry Reed (Captain), Sam Gallagher, Ryan Seager ( Jake Sinclair 71), Sam McQueen ( Josh Sims 53) Unused subs: Matt Young, Chris Johns