Southampton U18 v West Ham United U18

11am  6 January 2018

Under 18 Premier League
Southampton U18 3 West Ham United U18 1 (att 35)

I wasn't sure whether I needed to visit Southampton's training base in Marchwood. I came here in 1987 to watch Road Sea FC, then in the Wessex League, and when they folded soon after Saints took over the ground.

For years they used the Road Sea pitch for youth team games, but more recently the site has been expanded with additional pitches and the sort of facilities Premier League clubs seem to need at their training grounds.

The original Road Sea pitch still exists, as 'pitch one', but youth team fixtures now are usually played on pitches three and and four, far enough away for me to justify a return visit and to claim it as a new ground.

With the expansion of the site, and Southampton's Premier League status, it's no longer possible just to turn up and get in. I'd emailed the club during the week, more in hope than expectation, and was pleasantly surprised to get a reply on Friday morning to say I'd be allowed access.

Once past the security gate the atmosphere was more relaxed than at other top level training grounds, although the crowd for the under 18 game against West Ham was low compared to similar fixtures I've seen elsewhere.

It was played on 'pitch four', while the two clubs played at under 16 level next door on pitch three. The pair of pitches are separated by a two-tier building that includes some seats for spectators, with a few steps of open terracing to the sides.

Top level youth team matches can often be sterile affairs, but this was a good game. A fine free kick put West Ham ahead early on, but a defensive error allowed Saints to level not long later.

The pendulum looked to have swung in the visitors' favour after 30 minutes when a rash challenge resulted in a red card for Southampton. But West Ham's numerical advantage lasted less than 15 minutes, as a red card was dished out to them just before half time.

The extra space on the pitch in the second half benefited Southampton. They scored soon after the break to go in front, and added a third for a comfortable win. They could easily have scored one or two more.

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