City Under-23s Suffer Southampton Setback

Leicester City Under-23s missed out on the chance to leapfrog Southampton in the Premier League 2 standings with a 2-0 defeat at Holmes Park on Monday night.

But Ryan Seager’s 10th minute strike proved to be decisive as the Saints delivered an effective counter-attacking display to frustrate their hosts and move further out of reach of Steve Beaglehole’s men in the league table. 

Alfie Jones then struck with two minutes remaining to put the match to bed but Beaglehole will have been pleased with the dogged determination of his players against an impressive, well-drilled outfit. 

Southampton made the better start in Whetstone with Thomas O’Connor and Olufela Olomola causing the City backline a host of problems in the early exchanges on a sodden evening at the Under-23s' new home.

Martin Hunter’s men were ahead after just 10 minutes when Olomola cut inside two Foxes defenders on the edge of the penalty area before playing an inch-perfect pass for Seager to convert past Daniel Iversen. 

The hosts improved drastically after going behind with Layton Ndukwu and Admiral Muskwe, two reliable attacking outlets this season, looking dangerous whenever they received the ball in front of Mouez Hassen’s net. 

Ndukwu took matters into his own hands on the half-hour mark by charging through the Saints’ midfield before shooting from distance but Sam McQueen and Yan Valery were on hand to block his path to goal. 

Muskwe looked to score a leveller just before the break and his powerful drive almost reaped its due rewards but it flew narrowly over the Southampton crossbar. At the other end, Wagué was looking assured on his first outing since joining City on transfer deadline day.

Beaglehole’s men pushed hard in the second half but found clear-cut chances hard to come by and they were made to pay for their impotency up front in the 88th minute when Jones headed past Iversen from five yards. 

Major moment 

Seager’s early opener was a cruel blow for the Foxes after an adventurous start despite the torrential downpour and it gave Beaglehole’s men a mountain to climb after just 10 minutes. 

The City Under-23s boss has often lamented his side’s inability to take the lead and their Achilles’ heel struck them down again despite good work in the second period to try and cancel the arrears. 

Scoring so early gave the visitors the ascendency and, with the comfort of a one-goal advantage, they excelled at the back as the Foxes forward-line pushed for an equaliser late on. 

Their best efforts proved to be in vain, however, when Jones ghosted into space in the City area to place a neat header into the bottom corner and seal the Saints’ fifth victory of the season. 

Who impressed? 

Wagué was given his first run-out in a Leicester shirt since joining the Club on loan until the end of the season and the 398 fans in attendance saw plenty of positives from the Mali international. 

Paired alongside City centre-back Elliott Moore at the back, Wagué provided the hosts with an experienced head in defence and he proved to be a calming influence for the whole side throughout the match. 

With plenty of pace and endeavour at the Saints’ disposal, the 25-year-old stood tall to keep them at bay and he showed the self confidence required to carry the ball into enemy territory whenever the situation allowed for it. 

Wagué will miss the Emirates FA Cup fourth-round replay against Derby County on Wednesday evening but may be in contention to make his debut for Claudio Ranieri's men against Swansea City on Sunday.

Coming up...

City next face a trip to east London for the rearranged Premier League Cup tie against West Ham United at the Chigwell Construction Stadium on Thursday 9 February (7pm kick-off). 

Beaglehole's men suffered a 2-0 defeat to the Hammers in the corresponding fixture back in October but the City Under-23s manager says his squad have developed into better players since.

Another Premier League Cup match, away to Brighton and Hove Albion, follows the next Monday before the visit of Arsenal in Premier League 2 at Holmes Park on Friday 17 February. 

A hectic schedule continues later this month with the short journey to Nottingham Forest, in the Cup again, before returning to league action away to Derby County six days into March.

CITY: Iversen, Pascanu (Kaba Sherif 45), Moore (c), Wagué, Wood (Debayo 69), Miles, Choudhury (Watts 76), Knight, Ndukwu, Muskwe, Mitchell. 

SUBS NOT USED: Johnson, Bramley. 

SOUTHAMPTON: Hassen, Valery, McQueen, Reed, Gardos, Martina (c), Olomola, Jones, Seager, O’Connor, Sims. 

SUBS NOT USED: Wood, Latham, Little, Slattery, Willard. 

REFEREE: Karl Evans. 

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