12/08/2013: Liverpool U21 3-4 Saints U21
Saints began their U21 campaign with a big three points at Liverpool. The first half was end to end excitement from start to finish. Liverpool kicked off the scoring on seven minutes. Centre forward Jack Dunn intercepted Jack Stephens' careless backpass before finding the net. Saints responded well, with Ryan Seager firing just wide, having picked up a beautifully disguised through ball from Corby Moore. Both players were involved in the equalising goal. Once again it was a slack backpass which led to the opening. Seager had a shot saved, before the ball came out to Moore. He crossed for Omar Rowe, who had a simple finish. On 20 minutes Saints keeper Will Britt handed Liverpool an opportunity with a weak clearance, only to make amends with an excellent save. Soon after that Saints took the lead. Stephens' long ball evaded most of the Liverpool defence, with Jake Sinclair expertly turning his man before calmly slotting away. Saints were rampant and stretched their lead even further on 28. Rowe created a chance for Moore, who had his shot parried by Yusuf Mersin. Rowe was alert to the situation, following up on the rebound for 3-1. Liverpool edged back into it on 38 minutes. Turnbull was deemed to have fouled Dunn, although the incident appeared to take place just outside the box. Vilyan Bijev sent Britt the wrong way from the spot. The home levelled just before the break, with Kristoffer Peterson taking advantage of a mix-up between Britt and Turnbull.
Liverpool continued from where they left off at the start of the second half. Alex Inglethorpe's side began pressing higher up, forcing Saints into further errors. The back four were sometimes guilty of panicking on the ball, with a number of aimless clearances handing the initiative back to Liverpool. Kristoffer Peterson hit the post. Dunn then fired just wide. On 64 minutes Dunn had a free-kick fly just past the post. Saints then hit Pool with a deadly counter. Sinclair took advantage of confusion between a Liverpool defender and goalkeeper, hooking on to a long ball, before rounding his man and tapping into an empty net. Saints looked a lot more dangerous immediately after the goal. Corby Moore fired a weak effort at the keeper following some great one-touch build up. Saints looked nervy at the back at times, but got enough men behind the ball to prevent them getting too many shots away. Britt superbly tipped over a long range thunderbolt on 85. Sinclair then beat the offside trap, before finding the keeper with a low strike. Jack Dunn received the ball in the box late in the game, only to trip over his own feet. Sinclair could have notched a hatrick right at the death, but in the end the four goals were enough.
An exciting game of football at any level and a lot for Martin Hunter and his players to take on board. The back four was uncharacteristically sloppy. The central defensive duo of Stephens and Turnbull is usually one of the strongest components of the U21 side, but both looked well below their best on this occasion. Individual errors happen to everyone, so hopefully this was just a one off. The defensive shape as a whole wasn't actually that bad. Going forward we look extremely dangerous, particularly on the break. Seager, Rowe and Sinclair have the makings of a very exciting trio.
Britt: 6. Partially at fault for one of the goals conceded, but also responsible for a string of fine saves. Distribution and communication could do with some work, but shot-stopping capabilities aren't in question.
McCarthy: 7. Got caught out of position on one occasion, but overall a pretty solid outing, especially considering the 17 year old was playing in an unfamiliar role at right-back.
Stephens: 6. Mistake for the first goal so out of character. On the plus side, created the second goal with a brilliantly delivered long ball.
Turnbull: 6. Slightly unfortunate with the penalty decision, but still not quite at the standard you would expect. Made a couple of decent forward runs out from the back, but uneasy in defence. Had a tendency to hoof the ball away.
Young: 6. One of the strongest players in pre-season, but not quite at his very best on this occasion.
Reed: 7. Another industrious display from the midfield. Tactically sound throughout
Flannigan: 7. Pressed well particularly in the first half, winning the ball back on a number of occasions. Passing very good too.
Moore: 8. Controlled the game in the first half. At the heart of most of Saints' good attacking moves.
Seager: 7. Worked the channels well, with some fine link up play. Only thing lacking was a goal.
Sinclair: 8. Always looked dangerous in the final third. Gave the Liverpool back four a torrid time. Occasional selfishness in front of goal slightly frustrating, but you can't grumble with a performance like that.
Rowe: 8. Made a habit of being in the right place at the right time, but also strong defensively, tracking back to help right-back McCarthy.