21/07/2014: Swindon 0-1 Saints
It's been 10 weeks since Saints' last competitive match against Manchester United, but it feels considerably longer. Since that time the club has undergone substantial change. Three key players have already followed Mauricio Pochettino out of the door, and there may be more to come. Ronald Koeman has a major rebuilding job on his hand. While it's never wise to read too much into these types of games, it was nice opportunity for Saints fans to see Koeman's early work in action.
Saints came into this one off the back of two straight wins. On Tuesday 15th July Dutch Third Division side EHC Hoensbroek were seen off 4-0, with goals coming from McQueen (11), Chambers (44), Sharp (62), S Davis (64). Two days later Belgian amateurs Sporting Hasselt were thrashed 6-0. Graziano Pelle scored twice on his Saints debut (5, 32) with the others coming from McQueen (59), Weerts own-goal (67), Mayuka (78) and Gallagher (87). League One Swindon would provide a slightly tougher test.
The County Ground match was a typical low-key friendly. Saints had much the better of the play, with the ball stuck in Swindon's half for a fair portion of the game. The hosts rarely troubled Saints' back four. Koeman's men played possession based football, but not at a particularly fast pace.
Saints played a 4-3-3 formation. Harrison Reed and Jack Cork did most of the sitting in midfield, with James Ward-Prowse operating slightly more advanced. Nathaniel Clyne attacked the right flank with great vigor, but Matt Targett on the other side was a bit more withdrawn. Pelle was supported up front by wide-men Sam McQueen and Lloyd Isgrove.
The game was hardly packed with chances, but most of the ones that did come fell to the visitors. Clyne crossed for Pelle to head over under pressure early on. The former Palace full-back was involved again moments later, testing Swindon's keeper with a stinging close range effort. The best chance of the first-half fell to Isgrove, who slotted narrowly wide.
Saints took the lead not long after half-time, with Jos Hooiveld getting the better of his marker before hooking in from close range, from Ward-Prowse's deep corner. The defender made amends from an earlier miss just before half-time.
Emmanuel Mayuaka had already replaced the injured Sam McQueen on half-time, with the other 10 starters giving way on 62. Saints did have a couple more chances to extend their lead. Jake Sinclair couldn't quite get on the end of Billy Sharp's cross. Calum Chambers then fired over from distance, before Sam Gallagher curled the ball straight at the keeper. Swindon had a chance to snatch an equaliser towards the end when Gazzaniga was rounded in the area, only for the cross to be cut out.
There wasn't much to be gleamed from that. It was an uneventful contest, which seemed most geared towards get everybody match fit. The senior players looked slightly more assured than the youngsters as you might expect, but you'd be foolish to draw too many conclusions from this one.
Davis: Dealt with one potentially tricky situation comfortably. Otherwise a virtual spectator
Clyne: Saints' most impressive player. Instigated a number of attacking moves with some good runs down the right flank
Fonte: Made a couple of good runs out from the back. Never really troubled defensively
Hooiveld: Looked a bit sluggish early on, but soon grew into the game
Targett: Not the best of performances. A bit off the pace and not really adventurous enough
Cork: Kept it simple. Had a pretty easy job of shielding the back four
Reed: Came up short in a couple of 50-50s, but generally decent on the ball
Ward-Prowse: Customary quality set-piece delivery. A tidy display
McQueen: A reasonably solid outing. Cut inside and delivered a few decent balls on the right before coming off injured
Isgrove: Involved in a couple of half-chances
Pelle: Looked more proficient with his head and chest than with his feet
Mayuka: Added a bit of spark immediately after coming on
Gazzaniga: Survived a few nervy moments and made one decent stop
Chambers: Didn't do a lot wrong. Worked the right flank well
Yoshida: One of the easiest games he'll ever have
Turnbull: Didn't have a lot to do. Attempted a few long balls
McCarthy: Looked at ease in the unfamiliar role of left-back
Stephens: Disciplined in the holding midfield role, with some good passing to boot
Flannigan: Steady enough display in the middle
Sharp: Battled hard and generally got the better of his opponents
Sinclair: Made a few good runs
Gallagher: Provided mobility up front
Saints - Hooiveld (51)
Attendance: 3,958 (908 Saints fans)
Referee: Simon Hooper
Swindon: Foderingham, Byrne, Thompson, Luongo (Marshall 82), Branco, Kasim (McCormack 89), Barthram, Thompson, Smith (Waldon 64), Williams (Randall 64), Rodgers (Barker 53)
Subs not used: Belford, Jones, Antonio, Vandesonpele
Saints: K Davis (Gazzaniga 46), Clyne (Chambers 62), Fonte (Yoshida 62), Hooiveld (Turnbull 62), Targett (McCarthy 62), Ward-Prowse (Stephens 62), Cork (Flannigan 62), Reed (Sharp 62), Isgrove (Sinclair 62), McQueen (Mayuka 46), Pelle (Gallagher 62)