29/09/2014: Saints U21s 2-0 Norwich U21s
The U21s comfortably saw off Norwich at St Mary's on Monday. Martin Hunter was able to call on several players who have recently featured at first team level. Matt Targett, Jason McCarthy, Harrison Reed and Sam McQueen have all been part of Premier League squads this season. Lloyd Isgrove and Sam Gallagher also returned from injury, coming off the bench on the hour. Unsurprisingly, Saints were a lot more impressive than they had been in any of their four previous clashes.
Ryan Seager had the first major opening, turning his man in the box before firing low straight at the keeper. Both teams looked to build patiently, but it was the home side who broke the deadlock. Harrison Reed intercepted the ball on the right. The midfielder cut inside, before sending a long range effort into the bottom corner of the net.
Norwich had a few players with top level experience, including Sebastien Bassong and Gary Hooper. The latter appeared to be going through the motions, although he did force a decent save from Cody Cropper at one point. The Canaries were a lot more compact after the first goal, defending in numbers. Saints still found gaps in the final third, with full-backs Targett and Jake Flannigan stretching the play. Targett drove straight at the Norwich keeper from distance. Flannigan also hit the target from outside of the area. Reed had another ambitious effort just before half-time.
Saints looked just as comfortable during the 2nd half. It was 2-0 on 52 minutes. Reed floated his free-kick to the back-post. The ball was nodded down by Will Wood into the path of McCarthy, who hooked in from close range. Hesketh was agonisingly close to making it 3-0, shaving the post, having combined with McQueen.
McQueen had an opportunity to score himself, heading wide from Targett's cross. Norwich substitute Cameron King looked useful, shooting straight at Cropper following a good run. Reed cleared the ball off the line when Bassong headed towards goal from a corner. Gallagher could have put Saints further ahead late on. There would be no further goals, however. It finished 2-0, and that was probably a fair reflection of the game.
Naturally Saints looked a lot stronger with the inclusion of Targett and Reed. Both really stood out, although everyone played their part. Saints looked a real unit, and individually nobody was really below their best. Ronald Koeman is still thin on the ground in certain areas of the pitch, so it's not inconceivable that some of the lads involved on this occasion will be called upon again for the first team in the near future.
Cropper: One of the easiest games he'll ever have. Made a couple of relatively straight forward saves
Flannigan: Back at right-back, a role he has played several times in the past. Given license to charge forward
McCarthy: Typically solid. A couple of uneasy moments on the ball, but well positioned and disciplined throughout
Wood: Aside from one slack pass, he did pretty well. Made a few confident runs out from the back
Targett: Made one particularly brilliant slide tackle at the back, and a constant threat at the other end. Whipped in a few dangerous crosses
Hesketh: Always showing for the ball, dropping just in front of the back four. Intelligent in possession
Reed: Put himself about with some physical challenges, covering a lot of ground. Passing a slight let down early on, but still displayed his quality on the ball at times
Sims: Did a lot of good defensive work once again. Won the ball back on a few occasions with some willing pressing. Not quite as effective going forward
Rowe: Didn't get on the ball as much as in previous games, but did show the odd glimpses of magic here and there
Seager: Some good movement and link-up play. Not really in the thick of the chances after that early one
McQueen: More effective in the 2nd half when playing in a slightly more withdrawn role. Some intelligent wing play
Isgrove: A decent half-hour. Tidy on the ball
Gallagher: Looked sharper than expected, considering it was his first game back
Saints - Reed (13) McCarthy (52)
Saints: Cropper, Flannigan, McCarthy, Wood, Targett, Hesketh, Reed, Sims (Isgrove 60), Rowe, Seager (Gallagher 60), McQueen
Subs not used: Britt, Cook, Little
Norwich: Killip, Ramsey (McGeehan 85), McFadden, Bassong, Toffolo, Hall-Johnson, McGrandles, Odjidja-Ofoe, Murphy, Hooper, Eaton-Collins (King 51)
Subs not used: Oxborough, Grant