06/01/2016: Saints U21s 1-0 Chelsea U21s
Saints' defence of the FA Premier League Cup got off to a good start, with Martin Hunter's side seeing off Chelsea at Staplewood. The game was fairly evenly matched, but Saints' tactics were just slightly sharper. The match was also significant for the return of Fraser Forster, making his first appearance in a Saints shirt since suffering a broken kneecap in March.
The first-half was a bit of a stand-off. Saints started cautiously, sticking men behind the ball and attempting to counter patiently. Chelsea had a lot of the early possession, without creating too many clear cut chances. Charly Musonda fired over from Kasey Palmer's cutback. Just after the 15 minute mark Saints' back four looked really shaky. Fraser Forster made two consecutive saves, as Chelsea started to pile on the pressure. It wasn't long before the hosts' regained their composure. Saints didn't commit enough men forward to cause Chelsea problems during the first quarter, but grew in confidence towards the end of the half, playing some good football in the attacking third. Sam McQueen completely fluffed his 31st minute effort after Saints had moved the ball forward quickly on the right. Jake Hesketh then shot into the side netting at the near post from Ryan Seager's pass.
The game opened up a lot more in the second-half. Sam McQueen was played through on goal on 48, before curling the ball over the bar. Chelsea then had a good penalty shout. Saints took the lead on 52. Ryan Seager picked up a low pass from Harrison Reed on the edge of the penalty area, before neatly turning his man and rounding the keeper and passing the ball into the net. On 54 Hesketh looked to latch on to a through ball, only for the keeper to beat him to the punch.
Saints sat back again around the hour mark and generally defended well. Chelsea did still create a few chances, however. Forster made a brilliant save on 69, tipping the ball wide with his foot. The last 15 minutes were really end-to-end. Jack Stephens did well to deflect a Chelsea shot wide for a corner. Chelsea's Tammy Abraham kneed the ball over after finding space for himself at the back post. The result remained in the balance until the final whistle, but in the end Saints just about deserved to go through.
Forster: Understandably a bit rusty, but did about as well as could be expected given the circumstances. Pulled off some good saves, and made himself big. Kicking a bit off. The sooner he gets back in the 1st team the better
Gape: Battled away without really showing too much quality
Jones: Comfortable on the ball, and aside from a few minor mishaps early in the first-half, looked solid defensively
Stephens: Looked rusty early on, but improved as the game went on. Defensive work crucial in the second-half. Timing very good
Targett: Did let much get past him and some good set piece delivery
Reed: Broke up play really well, adding extra protection to the back four
Little: Made a few killer passes and tactically astute in his defensive midfield role
McQueen: Some good tracking back, but end product in the attacking third mostly disappointing
Hesketh: Didn't get on the ball enough in the first-half
Sims: Not involved that much in the attacking third, but some dogged defending at the other end
Seager: Didn't see enough of the ball in the first-half. Came up with the necessary magic to see Saints through in the second
Debayo: Fairly unremarkable 45 minute performance
Olomola: Helped Saints close out the victory with some good hold-up play
Saints line-up: Forster, Gape, Jones, Stephens, Targett (Debayo 46), Reed, Little, McQueen (Olomola 85), Hesketh, Sims, Seager
Subs not used: Lewis, O'Connor, Johnson
Chelsea line-up: Collins, Tomori, Colley, Clarke-Salter, Wright, Ali (Kiwomya 61), Colkett, Mitchell (Davies 83), Palmer, Musonda, Abraham
Subs not used: Thompson, Quintero, Suljic