As their footballing counterparts were battling for Premiership survival, Southampton AC’s men opened their 2018 challenge in the second top tier of the British Athletics League with a trip to Eton last Saturday.

All clubs were affected to a degree by a clash with the British Universities Championships held the same weekend.

But with the youngest squad in the division, the red and whites were unable to call upon around a dozen first-choice selections.

In the knowledge that at full-strength Southampton could expect top-two finishes in the remaining three fixtures, the brief was to avoid propping up the table after match one.

The response from the team, which included many BAL debutants, was magnificent.

Southampton’s banker tends to be the double act of 400m hurdlers James Forman and Sean Adams.

Once again both obliged with an A string win for Forman (51.42 sec) and complementary B string success for Adams (54.22 sec).

The sprinters bore the brunt of the absences against strong opposition but the Under 20 duo of Lynden Olowe ( 5th A string 48.95 sec) and Jack Higgins (2nd B in a PB 49.34 sec) stepped up to the challenge.

In the field, high jump coach Matt Watson came out of semi-retirement to win the B string in 1.95m with protégé Adam Jones opening his season in A string third place, 2.00m.

A brace of third places in the pole vault from Sam Bass-Cooper (4.70m), against very classy opposition, and Tom Rady (3.60m) helped keep the team’s nose above water.

Also stepping fearlessly into battle, spear in hand for his first BAL experience was Sonny Nash, winging the javelin out to 55.29m for fourth in the A string.

The middle distance men, as ever, pulled out all the stops.

Valiantly doubling up, Jonny Roberts got in some decent speedwork, clocking 1:54.00 min in his 800m, slugging it out with a bunch of sub-1:50 performers.

Jonny then teamed up with Matt Revier for fourth in the 1500m as the two made a surging charge in the final 250, picking off opposition athletes all the way to the line and dragging Revier through to second in the B string (4:02.20 min).

Making his first BAL appearance since 2010, Steve Phillips, himself an emerging coach, rolled back the years in finishing strongly to notch up a second place in the B 3000m in 8:52.92 min

The busiest man in the team was fast-improving decathlete Bradley Eisnor.

Opening with 6.29m in the B long Jump, Bradley then partnered the mighty Chris Scott (dominant A string winner with 54.01m) for third in the B Discus, 36.42m.

Stepping onto the track, Eisnor clocked a lifetime best 15.62 sec as runner up in the B 110m hurdles, promising faster times to come.

Last stop on the run-jump-throw adventure was the Shot, where although almost a season’s best, an effort of 10.49m for eighth place was indicative of the challenge facing the weakened team in the field.

The shot was one of the final events to be added to the match score and the fear was that having briefly occupied second place early on, the red and whites would be swallowed up. The sprint and 4 x 400 relay teams, both with late substitutions, held their nerve to secure sixth and fifth places respectively.

In a desperately tight final tally, third place, just eight points shy of the runners-up spot was more than satisfactory in a match where only 33 points separated second from sixth.

The team are raring to go with boosted confidence and resources for the second match on Saturday June 2 at Portsmouth.