A third-place finish sees Saints qualify for the Elite Group as they have a better record than the third-placed team in National Group 3, Chelsea.
With rivals Aston Villa playing at the same time, Martin Hunter’s men were able to quickly calculate their fate knowing that a win for them and a defeat for the Villans would see them through – and the Midlands outfit were defeated 3-0 by group winners Spurs in the final match at Villa Park.
The match at Eastleigh was rarely in doubt for Saints who took a 2-0 first half lead through Tadanari Lee’s close range finish and Sam Hoskins’ thunderbolt from 30 yards.
A flurry of goals after the break saw Newcastle bring it back to 3-1 after Ben Reeves had found the target, before Hoskins and Reeves each added to their own tallies inside the last half hour to wrap up a convincing win.
Saints U21s: Cropper, Young, Chambers, Stephens, Targett, Ward-Prowse, Moore (Curtis 80), Reeves, Hoskins, Lee (Seager 90), Sinclair (Seidi 84). Subs (not used): Britt, McCarthy.
Newcastle U21s: Alnwick, Logan, Riley, Miele, Kitchen, Good, Maddison, Knight, (Campbell 30) Hooper, Abeid, Amalfitano. Subs (not used): Mitchell, Gilliead, Desmond.
Saints got the match underway with Tadanari Lee and Ben Reeves taking the initial touches of the crucial final game of Group 2 which would determine where both sides would be playing their football in the second half of the season.
The game’s early stages found both teams acclimatise to the bobbly pitch affected by the adverse weather conditions in Hampshire over the weekend which had made the playing surface at Eastleigh a little more unpredictable in all areas.
Saints created their first opening in the seventh minute when a strong run from Sam Hoskins down the right flank created the opportunity for the on running Ben Reeves to latch onto the ball inside the area, but his heavy first touch took the ball goalwards only to bounce off the post and out of play.
The hosts continued to have the better of the game’s infancy stages with Reeves and Lee remaining lively as they threatened in and around the Newcastle area, with the latter firing narrowly wide with a rising shot on the quarter hour mark.
At the other end, the Magpies responded with a couple of set pieces in succession which Saints stopper Cody Cropper was untested from.
The American almost had his first save to make on 20 when Romain Amalfitano tried to drill a low shot in at the near post, but Jack Stephens got across in time to make a fine block and keep the Magpies at bay.
Two minutes later, that heightened the important of Stephens’ challenge as Saints got themselves in front. The goal arrived largely thanks to some impressive work down the left from Jake Sinclair. The wideman turned defender Steven Logan inside and out before delivering a low cross into the area which Reeves diverted goalwards, and LEE turned over the line from inside the six yard box to make it 1-0.
After a strong save from Cropper to keep out Dennis Knight, it was 2-0 to Saints on 26 minutes. The lead was doubled by a breath-taking strike from Sam HOSKINS who let fly from 30 yards out and his shot crashed into the top left corner for a wonderful second goal of the game.
The Magpies made a change on the half hour with striker Adam Campbell replacing Knight who had picked up a knock for the visitors.
Newcastle were more assured with the presence of Campbell in their side, but chances remained few and far between for the Magpies who were finding Saints tough to break down on either flank.
The closest they came was when Jonathan Hooper burst through the middle, but Cropper raced off his line to deal with the counter attack, leaving Saints to a comfortable looking two-goal advantage going into half time, with the scoreline between Spurs and Aston Villa also providing good news for Martin Hunter’s men.
Half Time: Saints U21s 2-0 Newcastle U21s
The hosts picked up from where they left off with a team goal from right out of the top drawer less than two minutes into the new half.
James Ward-Prowse’s ball out to the right flank was touched on by the full back Matt Young who had bombed forward to lay it into Hoskins, who in turn found REEVES to fire a high shot into the top left of Jak Alnwick’s goal for 3-0.
In fact it was nearly four a minute later when Hoskins broke in again on the right, but this time Alnwick was equal to it.
But it was undeservingly back to a two goal advantage 3-1 on 53 when Magpies substitute Adam CAMPBELL’s chance strike from distance bounced up off Stephens and over Cropper for a fortunate reply from the visitors.
The couple of quick-fire goals filed to let the game settle into any sort of rhythm though Saints were starting to come under more of an aerial threat from the visitors who briefly sensed a way back into the game.
Hunter’s side didn’t crumble though and restored their three goal margin on 63 minutes. A neat interchange between Hoskins and Reeves saw the former take advantage of a slip from the Newcastle left back as HOSKINS celebrated his second strike of the game with a calm finish past Alnwick for 4-1.
It could have been five for the home side three minutes later when Sinclair latched onto a throughball and fired a fierce strike in at the near post which the ‘keeper parried away.
Cropper was called into action on 70 to deny Brandon Miele’s rising strike which the ‘keeper did well to gather at the second attempt under pressure from a black and white shirt following in, but the American remained largely untroubled, letting a further strike from Campbell drop wide of his left post.
On 79 Saints went close to another when Hoskins robbed Mehdi Abeid of possession and ran through the Magpies defence to supply Sinclair inside the box for a shot at goal, but his effort crept just wide of the far post.
Inside the last ten minutes Moore went off and was replaced by Curtis, before Alberto Seidi got a late run out, coming on for Sinclair.
Seidi’s involvement led to a chance for Reeves in the closing stages, but the skipper wasn’t to be denied a second goal for himself in stoppage time when substitute Ryan Seager burst into the box to pick out REEVES for a close range finish for 5-1.
Full Time: Saints U21s 5-1 Newcastle U21s