05/03/2015: Saints U21s 4-2 Derby U21s
Saints progressed to the final of the U21 Cup with another impressive attacking display at St Mary's. All the goals came during the first-half, which was played at a high tempo. Saints effectively killed the game off in the second, remaining disciplined and organised throughout. Martin Hunter's side will now face Blackburn in a two-legged final.
The only major surprise in Hunter's initial line-up was the position of Sam Gallagher, who started wide on the right. It proved to be an inspired move. Derby were awarded a penalty after only a few minutes. The Rams hit Saints on the counter after Ryan Seager looked to be in at the other end. Ivan Calero enticed Ryan Mason into making a challenge. Calero stepped up from the spot, but saw his effort save by Paulo Gazzaniga. Derby remained on the front foot after the penalty and made amends for the miss on 7. Tom Koblenz picked out a beautiful shot from outside the area.
Saints hit back immediately with a swift attacking move, which started at the other end of the pitch, from a routine Gazzaniga clearance. Dominic Gape played the ball to Jake Sinclair on the edge of the area, before letting it run for Seager. It then fell to Gallagher who had cut in from the right and he duly finished with his left foot. Just seconds later Gallagher and Sinclair combined well again in the box, only for the move to fall down at the last.
The pace of the game briefly slowed, with Saints seemingly taking control of possession. The home side were 2-1 ahead on 14. Gallagher picked out a deep cross for Seager, who headed into the far corner of the net. Derby responded just as quickly as Saints did to going behind. Callum Guy hit a cracker from outside the box following a mazy dribble from Calero.
Derby continued to move the ball quickly, and looked be in for another seconds after the equaliser, only for Jason McCarthy to thwart Calero. It was 3-2 to Saints on 24. Sinclair brilliantly turned 30 yards from goal before feeding Seager, who finished into the bottom corner. Saints' fourth came on 28. Mason got in behind the Derby defence, before squaring it to Seager, who tapped the ball in just a couple of yards from goal. Saints maintained control of the game going into half-time.
Saints adopted a slightly more patient approach at the start of the second-half, playing keep ball and waiting for the opportunities to arrive. Seager shot over the bar on 50 following a good run. A few minutes later Will Wood missed a chance to score from a corner. Gape had a volley tipped wide on 55 following another great cross from Gallagher on the right. Derby occasionally threatened on the counter, but were invariably outnumbered going forward. Max Lowe hit a decent volley straight at Gazzaniga from range. Saints eased off slightly during the last 30 minutes or so, and the game got a bit scrappy. Hunter's team were professional in seeing the result out.
Gazzaniga: Made a great penalty save and maintained a decent command of his box
Mason: Struggled a bit early on, but helped make the final goal and confidence seemed boosted as a result
McCarthy: Showed composure on the ball and used his physical gifts to good effect. One slip-up late in the game didn't detract from what was a good showing
Wood: Looked a bit uneasy on the ball at times early on, but sound defensively
Debayo: Got forward on quite a few occasions and pulled off some good passes
Gape: Linked play from defence to attack with some solid passing. Made some really strong challenges too
Hesketh: Moved the ball quickly
Gallagher: Thrived in his new role on the right. Able to show his skill and vision, but also well positioned in the box when he needed to be
Sinclair: Played a key role. Vision and footwork superb throughout
Isgrove: Not as involved as the other attacking players but tidy on the ball and a good work rate
Seager: Deadly in the box. Movement and finishing first class
McQueen: Made his return from injury very late on
Sims: Sent on to eat up some time right at the death
Saints - Gallagher (8) Seager (14, 24, 28)
Derby - Koblenz (7) Guy (15)
Saints: Gazzaniga, Mason, McCarthy, Wood, Debayo, Gape, Hesketh, Gallagher, Sinclair, Isgrove (Sims 90), Seager (McQueen 90)
Subs not used: Britt, Cook, Jones
Derby: Mitchell, Hendrie (Zanzala, 85), Sharpe, Rawson, Lowe (McDonald, 73), Hanson, Koblenz (Vernam, 79), Bunjaku, Guy, Calero, Thomas
Subs not used: Wassall, Etheridge