10/08/2015: Saints U21s 2-2 Man City U21s

Saints U21s were denied victory in their first league game of the season, with Manchester City equalising late into stoppage time. The home side were well drilled throughout, and broke effectively when required. Saints were only undone by a series of individual mistakes.

The early stages of the game were fairly scrappy. A wet surface meant there was a lot of slipping over. Man City edged the possession stakes early on, but were rather toothless in attack. Saints played too many hit and hope balls on the occasions they weren't on the back foot. On 14 Lloyd Isgrove nearly broke through, having been played in brilliantly by Sam McQueen, but couldn't quite get the ball out from under his feet before being tackled. A few minutes later Marcus Barnes did well on the left before cutting back to Jake Hesketh, who shot straight at the keeper.

Saints gradually grew in confidence, seeing more of the ball as the half progressed. Will Wood couldn't quite connect Dom Gape's corner, which had evaded the reach of City's keeper. The away side's best player was Brandon Barker, who weaved his magic down the left flank. He played in Jose Pozo on 40, who shot wide. Saints were defending well as a team, crowding out the penalty area when City came forward. The hosts took the lead just before half-time. Jordy Clasie played a superb ball to Barnes on the edge of the penalty area. The striker turned before calmly finishing into the bottom corner.

Clasie's joy was short-lived. The midfielder limped off just a few minutes into the second-half. More bad news followed, with City equalising from a free-kick on 47, Bersant Celina the scorer. Ollie Cook came on for Saints, with Martin Hunter switching to a back three. The visitors had a lot of possession in the final third without really creating too many clear cut chances. Saints regained the lead on 61 very much against the run of play. Isgrove broke down the left cutting the ball across goal for Barnes, who flicked it in from inside the six yard box.

City patiently tried to find gaps during the last 25 minutes, with Saints continuing to put bodies behind the ball. David Faupala shot just wide on 75 via a deflection off Wood. From the resulting corner Manu Garcia struck the ball just past the post. Barnes almost completed his hatrick on 81, taking down Isgrove's cross before firing straight at the keeper. Saints appeared to have seen the game out until late in stoppage time, when Thierry Ambrose headed in a deep cross to the back post. Paulo Gazzaniga was partially at fault, misjudging the flight of the ball.

Player Comments

Gazzaniga: Did well until making a mistake for City's late equaliser. Assured on crosses

Gape: Battled hard, but found it quite tough against City's impressive left winger Barker

McCarthy: Made a few confident runs out from the back and generally solid in defence

Wood: Some excellent second half defending

Debayo: Solid enough

Reed: One of Saints' best performers. Offered a decent shield for the defence and displayed a good range of passing

Clasie: A bit sluggish early on, but improved as the first half went on. Provided a great assist for Barnes, but then suffered another disheartening injury at the start of the second-half

McQueen: Kept possession well, using his body strength to good effect

Hesketh: Had to do a lot of defensive work, but also held the ball up well when he received it in the final third

Isgrove: Pace proved useful on the counter

Barnes: Starting to look at home at U21 level now. Two good finishes and some great movement in and around the box

Substitutes

Cook: Looked fairly comfortable for much of the second half

Sims: Not on long enough to make much of an impact


Match Details

Saints: Barnes (45, 63)

Man City: Celina (47) Ambrose (90)

Saints line-up: Gazzaniga, Gape, McCarthy, Wood, Debayo, Reed, Clasie (Cook 47), McQueen (Sims 85), Hesketh, Isgrove, Barnes

Subs not used: Isted, Olomola, Little

Man City line-up:

Subs not used: