12/01/2015: Fulham U21s 1-2 Saints U21s
Saints U21s moved to the top of the table with a 2-1 win over Fulham. Martin Hunter's side put on an attacking clinic in the first half, but were hanging on slightly by the end of the game.
The end result was soured somewhat by the early injury to Saints keeper Cody Cropper. The American collided with a Fulham attacker, and was down receiving treatment for nearly 10 minutes before being carried off wearing an oxygen mask. Fulham's Dean O'Halloran suffered a bad ankle injury later in the half.
Saints restarted the game in fast and furious fashion. The visitors played at an incredibly high tempo. Sam McQueen, Jake Hesketh and Josh Sims looked particularly dangerous in the final third. The first goal came from an unlikely source. Bevis Mugabi latched on to Jason McCarthy's knock down before firing low into the corner. McCarthy netted the 2nd a few minutes later, hooking the ball home for Gape's corner. Saints carved Fulham open on a number of occasions during the first half and could have been out of sight before the interval. McQueen had a decent effort blocked. Martin Hunter's men also came close from a couple of corners. Saints looked slightly suspect at the back throughout, however. Fulham more than played their part in what was an end-to-end first 45. Ange-Freddy Plumain got beyond Josh Debayo down the right flank before shooting across Will Britt for 1-2.
With a heavy first team program coming up Jack Cork was replaced by Harley Willard at the break. Willard lined up on the right, with McQueen occupying the space on the centre. Hesketh dropped deeper to fill the role vacated by Cork. Saints sat off Fulham during the 2nd half. The high tempo approach adopted by Hunter's side inevitably took its toll, with Saints tiring more and more as the game went on. Fortunately Fulham were wasteful in attack. Alexander Kacaniklic fired over inside the area and Plumain played a dangerous ball across goal. Saints occasionally threatened on the counter, with Seager and McQueen testing Marek Rodak. Defensively the visitors were fairly well set up and deservedly held on for the three points.
Many of the Saints players on show at Motspur Park have spent time training with the first team in recent months, and it showed in the way they played. Saints were devastating going forward in the first half. They had to dig deep in the second, but overall it was still a great performance. On the same evening Jack Stephens and Jordan Turnbull -- on loan at Swindon -- helped the Robins climb to the top of League One, with a comprehensive 3-0 win at Coventry.
Cropper: Off with a nasty injury in the opening minutes of the game
Flannigan: Provided a few good crosses. Stood strong at the back
Mugabi: Some intelligent defensive work to go with the goal
McCarthy: Some confident runs out from the back
Debayo: A few minor defensive errors. Improved 2nd half, making some good forward runs
Cork: A decent range of passing. Came off at half-time as planned
Gape: Started a number of counters, spreading the ball forward quickly. Set pieces excellent too
McQueen: Involved in quite a few goal-scoring opportunities, and some good link-up play
Hesketh: Looked very sharp, some great one touch play to go with the impressive tricks. Had to be strong in the tackle in the 2nd half with Fulham on the front-foot
Sims: Best performance at this level. Caused Fulham plenty of problems with his probing runs
Seager: Some good pressing
Britt: Poorly positioned for the first goal. Looked hesitant early on, but more assured later on, making some good claims
Willard: Some great skill down the right flank
Fulham - Plumain (21)
Saints - Mugabi (12) McCarthy (15)
Attendance - 120
Referee: Mr. L Wood
Fulham: Rodak, Baba, Evans, Sambou, Buatu, Passley, Eisefeld, O'Halloran (Richards 40), Plumain, David, Kacaniklc (Tue Na Bangna 60)
Subs not used: Norman, Adeniran, Buffonge
Saints: Cropper (Britt 9), Flannigan, Mugabi, McCarthy, Debayo, Cork (Willard 46), Gape, McQueen, Hesketh, Sims, Seager
Subs not used: Mason, Little, Barnes