SOUTHAMPTON found Cherries’ new pitch to their liking as Eddie Howe’s men were condemned to their first defeat of pre-season tonight.
Lloyd Isgrove’s first-half header settled the issue 1-0 in favour of the visitors as the two teams christened the pristine playing surface at Dean Court.
Laid – together with two new training pitches – at a cost of around £750,000, it looked lush and should prove conducive to Cherries’ slick style of passing football.
Premier League Saints enjoyed long periods of possession throughout the contest with their well-drilled defence ensuring chances were at a premium for Cherries.
Maya Yoshida wasted a glorious opportunity to test Benji Buchel, the defender failing to meet James Ward-Prowse’s seventh-minute corner after arriving unmarked at the near post.
Yann Kermorgant required treatment following a heavy challenge from Jose Fonte, the striker clearly unhappy with the tackle and remonstrated with referee Andy Davies after he had returned to the pitch.
Adam Smith nipped in front of Lloyd Isgrove to clear a dangerous cross before Gaston Ramirez’s thunderous drive from the edge of the box flew narrowly over the crossbar.
Isgrove opened the scoring with a well-directed diving header after 20 minutes, the midfielder squeezing a cross from Nathaniel Clyne past the despairing dive of Buchel and into the bottom corner.
Saints’ new signing Graziano Pelle, a summer recruit from Feyenoord, was denied a second goal just three minutes later when Buchel raced off his line and saved low down from the Italian.
Cherries’ appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears after Callum Wilson’s pass had struck Ward-Prowse before the Saints midfielder was quickly involved at the opposite end.
Buchel appeared to have Ward-Prowse’s powerful long-range drive covered, only for the goalkeeper’s handling to betray him as it squirmed through his grasp. The Lichtenstein international was fortunate to have done enough to stop it crossing the line though.
Although Cherries found chances hard to come by during the opening period, Saints goalkeeper Artur Boruc was pressed into action twice as the first half drew to a close.
Firstly, the big Polish stopper scrambled across his line to push away a cross from Josh McQuoid which had taken a wicked deflection off Matt Targett.
And after the loose ball had found its way to Charlie Daniels on the edge of the box, Boruc pulled off a smart save to turn the defender’s stinging drive past the post.
Matt Ritchie, on as a half-time substitute for Wilson, let fly with a blistering left-foot effort, his shot flashing narrowly past the upright three minutes after the interval.
A raft of changes after 70 minutes saw Simon Francis, Harry Arter, Brett Pitman, Ian Harte, Junior Stanislas and Baily Cargill come off the bench for Cherries.
Stanislas looked to send Pitman through on goal, only for his pass to be cut out by Clyne before Buchel watched a speculative effort from Emmanuel Mayuka sail over the crossbar.
Sam McQueen side-stepped two challenges and saw his left-foot strike deflected over the crossbar before a free-kick from Harte was glanced into the back of the net by Pitman, only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.
Deep into stoppage time, a low, driven cross from the right by Clyne was diverted towards goal by Arter where Buchel was on hand to snaffle.
Cherries: Buchel, Smith (Francis, 70), Cook (Cargill, 70), Elphick, Daniels (Harte, 70), Pugh (Pitman, 70), Gosling (Whitfield, 81), O’Kane (Matthews, 81), McQuoid (Arter, 70), Kermorgant (Stanislas, 70), Wilson (Ritchie, h-t).
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Yoshida (Hooiveld, 60), Fonte, Davis (Reed, 60), Ramirez (Cork, h-t), Tadic (McQueen, 60), Ward-Prowse (Stephens, 75), Pelle (Gallagher, 75), Isgrove (Mayuka, 75), Targett.
Referee: Andy Davies (Hampshire).
Attendance: 7,421 (including 1,382 away supporters).