Southampton crashed out of the FA Youth Cup at the fourth round stage with a 3-1 defeat to Charlton at St Mary’s.
Trailing to an early goal, Saints battled back to level the tie with just over 20 minutes remaining as Jake Hesketh gave Jason Dodd’s team a lifeline against a spirited and well-organised Addicks side.
The introduction of Ryan Seager further boosted Saints’ armoury as they went in search of a second goal, but a quick-fore brace of strikes from the visitors proved too much to come back from, as Regan Cook and Joshua Umerah added their names to the scoresheet which sealed Charlton’s progress in the competition.
Saints, who had beaten Portsmouth 7-0 in the previous round at St Mary’s are now left to chase honours in the U18 and U21 Premier Leagues, whilst the Addicks will go on to host Arsenal next month in the fifth round.
The visitors got the match underway lining up in their changed strip of white shirts and black shorts, attacking the Chapel stand on a chilly January evening inside St Mary’s.
And the Addicks sprang an early surprise with just three minutes on the watch when they opened the scoring from the first corner of the game.
The teasing delivery from Tareiq Holmes-Dennis hanged in the air above Saints keeper Harry Isted, and Charlton forward Karlan AHEARN-GRANT applied the killer touch with his head to make sure that the ball crossed the line even though it looked like Holmes-Dennis’s delivery had crept straight in.
The goal hurried Saints into life, with the hosts clearly hurting from that initial setback as they sought to make swift amends. Jake Hesketh and Josh Sims both tried to spark swift counter-attacks, but they came up short in their attempts to force their way past a resolute Charlton backline.
Saints created their first offering in front of goal on 15 minutes when Sims and Hesketh linked well to tee up Jake Flannigan on the edge of the area, but the midfielder’s shot blazed over the crossbar without troubling Harry Doherty in the Addicks goal.
Although not in control of play, Charlton used the ball efficiently when in possession, and created another good opportunity to score in the 19th minute when goal scorer Ahearn-Grant played a neat one-two with skipper Holmes-Dennis before firing over from 20 yards out.
Hesketh struck a wayward effort over the top at the other end moments later, though the endeavour of both he and Josh Sims continued to benefit Saints in the final third as they continued to push the visitors further back.
The pressing style from the hosts started to make an impact, with Hesketh again the enforcer when he robbed Terrell Thomas of possession and ran in on goal to flash a strike narrowly wide of the right post, as Doherty breathed a sigh of relief.
Just past the half hour mark Charlton reminded Saints of their threat from midfield when Brandon Hanlan tested Isted from the edge of the area before left back Levander Pyke unleashed an equally ambitious effort in on the Saints goal which Isted saved well low to his right.
On 41 Hesketh had a terrific opportunity to level the scores. Marcus Barnes and Josh Sims worked an opening down the left channel where the latter’s low cross picked out Hesketh in space from eight yards out, but the scuffed shot from the midfielder trickled wide of the right post, much to his own bemusement.
The Addicks were comfortable in the losing stages of the half, seeing out the extra minute for stoppages with their slender one goal lead intact going into the break.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 0-1 CHARLTON
There were no changes from either side at the break as play resumed with Saints chasing a one goal deficit knowing they would have to score at least twice to avoid extra-time and potentially a penalty shoot-out too.
It was a slow start to the second 45 however, as it took nine minutes for the first shot to be registered, and when it came from Sims, Charlton’ Doherty was fully behind it as Saints remained frustrated.
Two minutes later, Niall Mason headed Isaac Nehemie’s cross at the Charlton keeper as the hosts started to turn the screw. Mark Irvine’s late run into the box then presented Saints with a striking opportunity when a backpass was collected by Doherty leading to an indirect free-kick from eight yards out just to the right of centre.
Barnes left the ball to Hesketh on the cutback, but the midfielder’s drilled shot was blocked by a sea of white shirts.
That chance brought the contest back to life, with Charlton almost making light work of the hosts again at the back when Hanlan broke into the box on the right and forced Isted into a smart save down at the far post.
Saints made their first change on the hour mark with Irvine making way for the U18s top scorer last season, Ryan Seager, who made his first appearance for two months since picking up an injury.
Just over five minutes later, Saints drew level with a strike which came out of the blue after a lull in play through midfield.
HESKETH pounced on the loose ball and from 25 yards out he carried it forward with two touches before firing a low strike which looked as though it took a slight deflection on its way into the bottom right corner of Doherty’ goal for 1-1.
The Saints strike looked as though it would spark a turnaround, but it only inspired Charlton to go back in search of their lead, and after Archie Edwards had hit a low shot wide, the visitors restored their one goal advantage with 73 minutes on the watch.
First goal scorer Ahearn-Grant got down the right side of the area to square the ball across for Regan COOK who made no mistake from close range to restore Charlton’s lead.
And, no sooner had 2-1 gone up on the board, the Addicks made it 3-1 when Holmes-Dennis found Joshua UMERAH on the edge of the area, and the striker turned to strike a deft finish into the bottom left corner to effectively put the game out of reach.
Will Wood replaced Nehemie for the final quarter of an hour, before Mason made way for Armani Little in midfield with just over ten minutes remaining.
Charlton freshened up their options by replacing the hard-working Ahearn-Grant with Mykkel Kennedy late on whilst George Lapslie came on for Hanlan in the final few seconds.
Five minutes of stoppage time began with Saints still plugging away in attack, but the additional minutes drifted away, and with it went their Cup hopes for another season.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 1-3 CHARLTON
Southampton team: Harry Isted, Tom Leggett (c), Jason McCarthy, Josh Debayo, Isaac Nehemie (Will Wood 75), Niall Mason (Armani Little 79), Jake Flannigan, Jake Hesketh, Mark Irvine (Ryan Seager 61), Josh Sims, Marcus Barnes
Unused substitutes: James White, Chris Regis
Goal: Hesketh, 67
Charlton team: Harry Doherty, Aaron Barnes, Levander Pyke, Regan Cook, Joe Gomez, Terrell Thomas, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis (c), Archie Edwards, Joshua Umerah, Karlan Ahearn-Grant (Mykkel Kennedy 83), Brandon Hanlan (George Lapslie 90)
Unused substitutes: Sam Bone, Mehawl Martin, Sevdar Bokciu
Goals: Ahearn-Grant, 3; Cook, 73; Umerah, 75
Referee: C Powell