Sam Gallagher struck four times as Southampton’s Under-18s ran out 5-1 winners in South London on Tuesday afternoon.
The youngsters secured their sixth consecutive victory and the second inside a month over the Eagles with a rampant display which moved them to the top of the Elite group above Fulham but having played a game more.
The match was originally scheduled to take place last Saturday, but due to inclement weather conditions the contest was hastily rearranged so that it could be played before this weekend’s scheduled trip to Bolton Wanderers.
The wait didn’t appear to affect Saints however, as they were quick out of the traps to take a fourth minute lead when Jake HESKETH slotted the visitors in front with his finish inside the area.
Further chances came in the opening 45 minutes, but it was in the 44th when GALLAGHER grabbed his first of the game when he tapped home after good link up from Hesketh and Ryan Seager on the flanks to create the opportunity for the tall forward to score.
GALLAGHER notched his second shortly into the new half, and although Palace then got one back, Saints went 4-1 up past the hour mark when substitute Sam McQueen cut inside on the left to cross for GALLAGHER to head home for his hat-trick, doubling his tally for the season to-date.
Saints maintained their standards after the fourth strike as they saw off the threat of the hosts, and there was still time for GALLAGHER to poke home the visitors’ fifth goal after benefitting once more from Hesketh and Seager’s combination.
18s assistant coach Paul Williams said the final score was a reflection of the efforts shown by the players on the training ground in recent weeks.
“They’re working hard and getting their just desserts,” he said after the game.
“The boys managed the game well and made themselves comfortable. They did the scruffy stuff too and I’m really pleased for the group as a whole who have all played to the standards we expect again.
“We’ve challenged Sam (Gallagher) to get more goals and he’s really come on,” Willo continued. “Whether he will be in the Under-21s on Friday (against Wolves) remains to be seen, but we’ll be looking for more of the same at Bolton on Saturday.
“There’s a great mentality about us and we know we’re there to be shot at now we’re at the top.”
Saints U18s: Johns, Leggett, Mugabi, McCarthy, Nehemie, Gape, Flannigan, Hesketh (Higgins 72), Ariyibi (McQueen 60), Seager, Gallagher (Branker 82).