09/02/2016: Saints U21s 1-1 Tottenham U21s
Saints U21s played out a draw with their Tottenham counterparts in a tightly contested clash at St Mary's. The two sides cancelled each other out for much of the match, but there were moments of quality shown by both in spells.
Since Saints' last outing against Huddersfield, Martin Hunter has seen Ryan Seager and Jack Stephens go out on loan to Crewe and Coventry respectively. With a further four U21 players already playing elsewhere, Hunter was allowed to call on two first-teamers, Cuco Martina and Juanmi. Nabil Bentaleb started for Spurs.
The first 15 minutes of the game were quite congested. Both teams defended with numbers behind the ball, with Spurs showing slightly more authority in possession. Things livened up slightly after that. Josh Sims had a header across goal easily caught by the keeper. On 18 Josh Onomah hooked the ball straight at Paulo Gazzaniga. The Saints stopper then saved easily from Will Miller, as Spurs started to take control.
Cuco Martina had the ball in the net on 29, with a second rate replica of his Arsenal goal. Sims was in an offside position however, and deemed to be interfering with play. Saints put together the best move of the half on 40, quickly passing from one end of the pitch to the other, only for Juanmi to stumble on the ball when through on goal. Jake Hesketh had a deflected effort go just wide of the post on 44.
Saints attempted to move the ball quicker going forward at the start of the 2nd half, with Harrison Reed playing slightly further up the pitch. It was Spurs who showed more composure on the ball, however. On 53 Onomah shot wide. The same player had another attempt creep just wide of goal 8 minutes later. Sims then had a low shot saved, as Saints started to attack with greater confidence. Hunter's men utilised the flanks with greater regularity, but the opening goal was down to pure individual brilliance. Hesketh took a touch to steady himself about 25 yards from goal, before curling into the top corner of the net.
Bentaleb's experience was really noticeable. He was Tottenham's most influential player by some distance. He went close with successive free-kicks before eventually finding the equaliser from open play on 77. Alfie Jones didn't get enough on his clearance after Spurs had worked a decent overlap down the left. Bentaleb was alert and ready to complete a simple finish.
Spurs saw a lot more of the ball during the last 10 minutes, but Saints were still finding space on the counter. Harrison Reed's 88th minute free-kick went straight into the arms of the keeper. Hesketh came agonisingly close to getting a winner in stoppage time, pulling his shot wide after cutting inside. Far from a perfect performance from Saints, but a big improvement on the previous outing against Huddersfield.
Gazzaniga: Might have done better for the goal conceded. Otherwise a fairly nondescript showing
Martina: Passable. A few good forward breaks, but first team capabilities weren't really evident on this occasion
Mugabi: Showed a propensity to use the long ball. Pretty solid defensively
Jones: Didn't cover himself in glory for the goal, but some great last ditch tackles
Debayo: Forced off injured early on
Reed: Showed intelligence on and off the ball. Linked play from midfield to attack, and defensively alert
Gape: Best performance for a while. Picked out some good long range passes and solid positional sense for the most part
Hesketh: Showed sublime quality on the ball and plenty of endeavour off it. A very good display
Juanmi: Had a very frustrating game. Some willing running, but very little of the things he tried came off
Sims: A workman like showing. Didn't show a great deal of cutting edge in the final third
Gallagher: Back up front after previously operating out wide. A few good bits of hold-up play, but didn't show enough assertiveness for much of the match
Vokins: First appearance at this level for the schoolboy. Showed natural signs of naivety at times, but did some good things. Came out on top in a few risky looking challenges
Saints: Hesketh (64)
Tottenham: Bentaleb (76)
Referee: Adrian Quelch
Saints line-up: Gazzaniga, Martina, Mugabi, Jones, Debayo (Vokins 6), Reed, Gape, Hesketh, Juanmi, Sims, Gallagher
Subs not used: Lewis, Bakary, Little, Olomola
Tottenham line-up: McGee, Walker-Peters, Georgiou, Amos, Carter-Vickers, Bentaleb, Miller, Winks (Lesniak 81), Harrison (Sonupe 70), Onomah (Goddard 81), Walkes
Sub not used: Voss