Late heartbreak despite comeback for City
NORWICH City's Under-21s fell to a late defeat despite bouncing back from 2-0 down at half time at Southampton's Staplewood ground.
Dmitri Halajko's side had comprehensively beaten Southampton 7-2
at Carrow Road back in November thanks to a rampant Jamar Loza netting five times in front of nearly 2,000 Norwich fans.
This time around, Southampton gave a first Under-21s start to the highly-rated James Ward-Prowse, whilst Florin Gardos and Matt Targett were fielded in defence as well as Paolo Gazzaniga in goal.
The hosts were quickest out of the blocks and caused City problems early on, with Josh Sims' shot flashing narrowly wide of Ben Killip's post.
An excellent save then denied Jake Hesketh, who aimed a curling effort at the far corner but was thwarted by a sprawling Killip.
The resulting corner was then heading towards goal and Killip had to be alert to tip the effort safely wide.
Olufela Olomola found space in the penalty area on the Southampton left but his low shot was gathered by Killip.
Sam Gallagher beat the offside trap and was played through but the Saints striker was brought down just inside the penalty area by Joe Crowe, with Ward-Prowse stepping up to confidently convert the spot kick.
Sims then had an opportunity to double the lead for Southampton, but another great save from Killip saw him manage to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.
City's first clear sight of goal came through Ray Grant's free kick which was headed narrowly wide by Benny Ashley-Seal as half time approached.
Gallagher capitalised on a defensive error late in the first half to finish clinically into the bottom corner of City's net, leaving them with a mountain to climb.
Reece Hall-Johnson tested out Gazzaniga with a dipping effort that had to be palmed over by the Saints stopper.
City halved the deficit with 67 minutes on the clock when Michee Efete's backheel was saved by Gazzaniga, but Alfie Jones could only divert the ball into his own net.
It would be another set piece that provided the equaliser for City, as a scramble ended with Efete using his chest to push the ball over the line from close range.
There would be late heartbreak for Halajko's side, as a Ward-Prowse corner was lashed into the net by Sims deep into stoppage time.
However, there was nearly more late drama when Glenn Middleton stood up a cross and Benny Ashley-Seal's header looked to have restored parity, only for his effort to rebound back off the post and away.
FULL-TIME: Southampton 3-2 Norwich City
GOALS: Saints: Ward-Prowse (pen 28), Gallagher (43), Sims (90+3). Canaries: Jones OG (67), Efete (74).
NORWICH CITY: Killip; Ramsay, Crowe, Efete, Hall-Johnson; Grant (Godfrey, 60), Adams; Lewis (Higgs, 60), McIntosh, Middleton; Ashley-Seal. Unused subs: Oxborough (GK), Sambu, Syme.