Arsenal's flickering hopes of winning the Reserve League title were extinguished on Wednesday night as Southampton condemned the young Gunners to their heaviest defeat of the season.

Djamel Belmadi gave the hosts an early lead at St. Mary's and Marian Pahars added another in the 25th minute. David McGoldrick extended Southampton's lead seconds after the break and scored again on the hour. Belmadi grabbed his second and his team's fifth in the 69 minute.

Nicklas Bendtner grabbed a consolation goal for the visitors 13 minutes from time but it was too little, too late for Neil Banfield's side. They slip to third place in Reserve League South, behind Southampton.

Bendtner had the first sight of goal after just three minutes. The Danish youth international tried his luck from 25 yards but did not trouble goalkeeper Michael Poke.

Belmadi flashed a similar effort past Mart Poom's right-hand post shortly afterwards and then wasted an excellent chance, ballooning a shot over the crossbar after excellent work from full-back Gareth Bale. However, Belmadi made amends in the ninth minute, cutting in from the left and swapping passes with David McGoldrick before shooting low past Poom.

Poke, booked for a badly mis-timed challenge on Bendtner just outside the box, saved bravely at the feet of Anthony Stokes after a well-worked free-kick, but Arsenal's chances were few and far between and they soon found themselves further behind.

Pahars doubled Southampton's lead, collecting Belmadi's pass and cutting in from the left flank before drilling the ball past Poom.

McGoldrick nearly made it three shortly afterwards, running onto Sparv's through ball and lifting it over Poom but wide of the post. Then the Arsenal goalkeeper made an excellent stop at the feet of McGoldrick after a long punt from Poke had created another opening.

A goal before half time would have changed the complexion of the game and Arsenal went close to doing just that. Ryan Smith surged into the area but fired into the side-netting, then Bendtner smacked a shot against the outside of the post from a tight angle.

Banfield's side were made to rue those missed opportunities within a minute of the restart. McGoldrick muscled his way past Matthew Connolly and slotted home from 10 yards to effectively settle the result.

Arsenal persevered and Jay Simpson, on as a half-time substitute, forced a good one-handed stop from Poke. Sebastian Larsson was first to the loose ball but could only thump his effort against the foot of the post.

McGoldrick made it four on the hour mark with his second of the match, another low finish giving Poom no chance. Then nine minutes later Belmadi doubled his tally, slamming the ball into the top corner after a skilful turn inside the box.

Bendtner grabbed a consolation with 12 minutes left, turning the ball home from the left of the area after muscling his way into the box. Marc Elston flashed a header wide in the closing stages but, by then, the game was long gone for Arsenal.

With thanks to

Arsenal U23

Parisio 45
Kelly 60
Stokes 60


Randall 60
Simpson 45
Elston 60
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29 Mar 2006