Rotherham United exited the FA Youth Cup at the third round stage despite a valiant effort in a 2-0 defeat to Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium.
The Millers produced a competitive showing on the south coast, but Premier League class eventually shone through after goals from Christian Norton and Will Ferry sealed passage into round four for the Saints.
Ciaran Toner’s side had their moments against their higher-ranked opposition, and can take pride from their efforts, with the majority of his squad experiencing their first taste of playing in a first-team environment.
Despite the home side being heavy favourites it was the Millers who made the early headway and could have taken the lead inside the first minute. Northern Ireland youth international Tyrone Lewthwaite fired in a dipping volley which was beaten away by Saints ‘keeper Jack Bycroft.
Southampton gave a warning of their intentions when Norton was sent clear on goal from the angle, but ‘keeper Charlie Farrar saved well with his legs.
The visitors crafted half a chance when a well worked free-kick was fired towards goal by Alex Johnson, but his low strike was deflected wide.
The home side took the lead on 15 minutes when a dangerous centre from the left side was powerfully headed home by Norton.
The Millers almost produced an immediate response when Wilf Peel-Evans knocked a ball into the Southampton area, but Jacques Etia’s shot on the spin went narrowly wide.
Young full-back Harrison Beeden was first into the book after a cynical pull back on his opponent, whilst Norton missed a good chance for a second soon after as he prodded wide when well placed.
The Millers almost crafted a chance when great persistence by Etia won possession high up the field, but Regan Hutchinson’s cross couldn’t find a teammate.
Young full-back Johnson looked in trouble after a heavy challenge, but showed great bravery to continue after receiving lengthy treatment.
Just before the break Peel-Evans was fed by Hutchinson, but a weak effort dribbled wide of the far post.
The Millers remained competitive and threatened on the break, but Farrar was kept busy during the closing stages of the first-half as Southampton looked more likely to increase their advantage.
The injured Johnson was replaced by Luke Hodgkinson at the break, as the visitors again made the early running.
Mitchell Carlton picked up possession 35 yards from goal and slid a pass into the feet of Jacob Gratton. The winger headed towards goal before unleashing a fierce drive which cannoned against the bar and ran to safety.
At the other end, Southampton threatened when a dangerous low centre evaded everyone when only a slight touch would have ensured a certain goal.
The hosts had another glimpse soon after when Ferry harboured ambitions of glory after side-stepping a couple of challenges, before sailing an effort just wide from 20 yards.
Rotherham showed further signs of intent when a corner caused problems for Bycroft as he unconvincingly clawed the ball clear.
Jake Southern-Cooper prevented a chance for the hosts with a last ditch block, whilst at the other end Lewthwaite headed over from a free-kick.
The Millers looked the more likely to score and after Bycroft unconvincingly flapped at another cross, Hutchinson picked up the loose ball but his drilled cross evaded everyone in the area.
With 15 minutes remaining Hutchinson picked out Lewthwaite with a right-wing cross, but the big front-man couldn’t quite angle his header goalwards from eight yards out.
Gratton had another effort blocked as Toner’s side pushed for an equaliser, but Southampton still had plenty going forward as Robise fired an effort over.
The Millers kept plugging away but were caught at the other end as Ferry fired in late on to seal the win for the hosts.
Southampton: Bycroft; Ramsey, Watts, Kpohmouh (Olufunwa 90), Morris; Robise (Bartlett 86), Watts, Jankewitz, Ferry; Norton, Fleary (Braithwaite 66).
Rotherham: Farrar; Beeden, Hull, Southern-Cooper, Johnson (Hodgkinson HT); Hutchinson, Peel-Evans (Wenham 86), Carlton, Gratton; Etia (Gateskill 74), Lewthwaite.