'We deserved more', says GillNORWICH City Under-18s suffered a cruel defeat on Saturday as Marcus Barnes' last-gasp header consigned them to a 2-1 reverse at Southampton following an earlier strike from Harley Black.
The visitors were the better team for much of the contest against an experienced Saints outfit, but fell to just their second loss in eight Barclays Under-18s Premier League matches when Barnes netted in injury-time.
Jerry Gill's side began in positive fashion and tested Harry Isted early on as Black's curling effort called the Saints goalkeeper into action just five minutes in.
However, it would be the hosts who went in front on 10 minutes as Olufela Olomola converted a Barnes cross to net his third goal of the campaign.
The Canaries responded well, with a fierce drive from defender Joe Crowe earning the first in a succession of corners as they pressed for an equaliser with some sustained first half pressure.
That dominance eventually told on 37 minutes when the excellent Glenn Middleton pulled back across the box for Black to fire home with an emphatic finish having broken well from halfway.
Middleton caused further problems barely moments later, but his delivery from the right was inches too high for the industrious Benny Ashley-Seal to connect with a header.
The second period offered less in goalmouth action, although Ashley-Seal again went close on 71 minutes when his bouncing drive was smothered well by Isted.
Having been pushed back for long periods, Saints looked for a winner as the match drew to a close; eventually getting it in stoppage-time as Barnes headed beyond Aston Oxborough having earlier blazed a volley over.
Speaking after the match, Gill told canaries.co.uk: "Of all the games this season, this one is probably the hardest to swallow.
"The boys were outstanding again, which is backed up by the statistics. Everything was really positive; the pressing was excellent and in possession we created a lot of chances while also keeping the ball.
"We coped with them physically and managed to control the game for long periods. The two centre-halves were excellent against Marcus Barnes, who is a good player.
"Glenn Middleton was fantastic as well, but we took him off to give Lewis Byrne-Hewitt some minutes as he's coming back from injury."
Under-18s coach Gill paid tribute to his developing youngsters, commenting: "They're a joy to work with at the moment.
"We're sat on the side and watching them manage themselves. The group understand their roles and responsibilities, so it's great to see them implementing what we're teaching them in games.
"They haven't had two consecutive days off since Christmas so they deserve a break. We'll give them some downtime ahead of the Stoke game as it's important they get some family time in.
"It keeps them happy if they're able to go home occassionally, then they can come back in fresh for the end of the season."
FULL-TIME: Southampton 2-1 Norwich City
NORWICH CITY: Oxborough (GK); Wallis, Boateng, Pollock, Crowe, Ellseley, Black, Ashley-Seal, Couzens, Cantwell, Middleton (Byrne-Hewitt, 57). Subs not used: Beauchamp (GK), McIntosh, Sambu, Kamal.