South Shields tasted defeat for the first time in pre-season as Southampton booked their place in the final of the South Shields FC International Tournament with a clinical display.
The Saints ran out 3-0 winners to set up a final with Marseille on Sunday, with Shields to take on Celtic in the third-place play-off.
It was a keenly contested match between Shields and Southampton’s Under-23s, with the Mariners enjoying good possession for spells of it.
However, the main difference came in the final third as the Saints took their chances clinically to deservedly take the victory.
The Mariners were particularly bright in the opening 20 minutes and went close to taking the lead when a trialist whistled an effort just over from the right.
He had a further opportunity soon after, but slipped just as he was about to square the ball for a team-mate in the area.
The Saints took the lead in the 27th minute when they won the ball back from a Shields throw-in and Jake Hesketh – who has made several appearances for Southampton’s first-team – took the ball inside and thumped it into the top corner from the edge of the box.
Hesketh scored another superb goal seven minutes before half-time when he buried the ball into the bottom corner from 20 yards to underline his quality.
Shields tried to pull one back before the break, and the closest they came was an effort from distance by Dan Wright which went wide.
The Mariners started the second half strongly and threatened to get back into it, with substitute Matty Pattison at the heart of much of their good play.
Jon Shaw was denied with an effort from distance and a trialist went close, but Southampton gained the upper hand the longer the half went on.
Callum Slattery smashed an effort against the post from close range and within three minutes of that, the Saints were awarded a controversial penalty when Barrie Smith was adjudged to have fouled Marcus Barnes.
Barnes picked himself up to thrash home the penalty down the middle to all but seal Southampton’s place in the final.
They had chances to secure a bigger margin of victory, but Tyreke Johnson curled a free-kick over and Will Smallbone blazed over from 12 yards.
Shields’ brightest moment in the closing stages came courtesy of teenage substitute Callum Guy, who beat his man and backheeled the ball to Michael Richardson in the box. Richardson hit his effort just over.
Siph Mdlase should have made it four late on for the visitors when the ball was pulled across the area to him, but he skewed it wide from close range.
The Mariners’ last chance fell the way of Lee Mason, whose effort was deflected just past the post.
Shields will meet Celtic in Sunday’s third-place play-off at 1pm, with the final between Marseille and Southampton to take place at 5pm. Tickets will be available at the turnstiles.
SOUTH SHIELDS: Trialist, Hunter (Smith 34), Lough (Trialist 61), Shaw (c) (Brown 61), Morse, Turnbull, Trialist (Guy 61), Ross (Pattison 46), Finnigan (M Colquhoun 61), Wright (Richardson 61), Adams (Lough 77).
WORDS: Daniel Prince. IMAGE: Kev Wilson.