29/02/2016: Saints U21s 0-0 Chelsea U21s

Saints U21s were held to another draw against Chelsea at St Mary's. Both sides had good chances to win what was a cagey game. In the end the final result was probably a fair one on the balance of play.

Martin Hunter started with a fairly conservative 4-1-4-1 formation, with Harrison Reed anchoring the midfield and Sam Gallagher starting as the lone striker. Saints made a rapid start, succeeding in getting the ball forward quickly on a few occasions during the opening few minutes. Gallagher smashed wide on 3 after being presented with a good chance on the right of the box.

Chelsea saw more of the ball after Saints' strong opening, but lacked any real cutting edge going forward. They had plenty of efforts on goal, but mostly from long range. Alex Kiwomya, Mason Mount and Charlie Colkett all warmed Paulo Gazzaniga's gloves.

About midway through the first-half Saints adopted a more patient approach, and saw more of the ball without threatening too often. Gallagher had another good chance on 34, shooting low at the keeper following good work by Reed. Armani Little smashed wide on the follow up. Ola Aina shot off-target for Chelsea not long before half-time.

The game briefly threatened to spark into life at the start of the second-half. Jake Vokins had a free-kick go straight at the keeper on 49. There weren't too many clear cut chances for some time after that, however. The quality of the game gradually deteriorated, with both teams looking below their best midway through the second-half.

Things did open up a bit during the final 15 minutes. Gallagher went through on goal on 77, but his touch took him away from the ball and the keeper was able to gather. Chelsea then went close at the other end, with Kiwomya hooking the ball just wide from inside the area. On 81 Saints won a penalty following good pressing from Gallagher. The same player stepped up and fired his spot-kick over the bar. Chelsea saw a lot of the ball during the remaining minutes, but only really came close right at the death. Tammy Abraham hit the post, before Kiwomya forced Gazzaniga into another routine save. Saints looked sloppy towards the end of the game, but overall it was an efficient, if fairly unattractive team performance.

Player Comments

Gazzaniga: None of the saves he made were that difficult, but positioning spot on and kicking generally good

Gape: Defended fairly well for the most part, with some crisp passing

Cook: Kept it simple, with a lot of no-nonsense clearances

Jones: Misjudged a few situations, but managed to play his way out of trouble once or twice

Vokins: Often came unstuck further up the pitch, but showed plenty of confidence and assured throughout

Reed: Led by example. Set the tempo going forward and organised the rest of the team efficiently at the other end

Olomola: Worked hard up and down the right flank, without showing a great deal of quality

Little: Neat and tidy, but sometimes lacking in composure when it came to playing the important pass

O'Connor: Didn't really assert himself on the game. Saw less of the ball as the game went on

Hesketh: Started off on the wing, but given licence to drift inside. Not as influential as he has been in other recent matches, but a few nice bits of skill nonetheless

Gallagher: Led the line fairly well. Caused problems with his movement and aggressive pressing. Only thing that let him down was his finishing

Substitutes

Sims: Unable to influence the game too much in an attacking sense

Match Details

Referee: Adam Ricketts

Saints line-up: Gazzaniga, Gape, Cook, Jones, Vokins, Reed, Olomola, Little, O'Connor (Sims 73), Hesketh, Gallagher

Subs not used: Lewis, Bakary, Valery, N'Lundulu

Chelsea line-up: Collins, Dabo, Aina (Tomori 66), Conroy, Wright, Colkett (Abraham 60), Quintero (Mitchell 46), Houghton, Kiwomya, Palmer, Mount

Subs not used: Thompson, Scott