Jason Dodd was delighted to see his Under-18s side show their true colours in a majestic display that earned Southampton a 4-2 win over their Manchester United counterparts at Staplewood.
The youngsters put in a largely controlling performance in which they fought hard to see off the threat of the Red Devils on Saturday morning to make it back-to-back victories in the Elite group of the Barclays Under-18 Premier League.
“I think we deserved it as we created a good few chances,” Dodd highlighted after the match. “It was a bit of a scrappy and niggly game which sometimes it’s got to be against a really good Manchester United side, so for us to score four goals is fantastic.
“You know us though, we’re disappointed about the two goals that we conceded, but I thought the players were again excellent today, and we felt that we deserved the win.”
Saints were quickest off the mark, scoring with two minutes on the clock through Jake Flannigan’s volley, and although they were twice pegged back in the contest, the goals flowed for Dodd’s team.
“They (Saints goals)were all great balls into the box,” the 18s coach explained. “It was a terrific finish from Jake, and then Sam McQueen had the composure in the area to make it 2-1. They scored a great equaliser and then we’re thinking it could go either way, but then Mr Seager scores as he normally does, and then he puts Sam Gallagher in late on.
“I think the old scenario as they say, when you score you’re at your most vulnerable, and we scored a really good early goal, a great cross and a great finish from Jake Flannigan, but then really we switched off a little bit.
“These are learning curves though, and we wanted our players to enjoy their goals especially against a really good side. It’s pleasing for me as it’s another good solid all round performance.
“You just want to see the lads manage the game and right at the end we’ve had Jake Hesketh come on and he was fantastic,” Dodd added. “I think he was fouled eight times in a four minute spell, so it shows you that we asked them to manage the game and we did that.”
The lung busting, high energy performances we’ve been used to seeing of Mauricio Pochettino’s side of late was replicated throughout the game by the youngsters, and Dodd is encouraging his players to maintain that approach.
“They’re 16 years and above so they should be used to hard-work!” he quipped. “We had Sam McQueen who lasted 88 minutes again and was fantastic as were most of the boys, so we want them to come off and not have anything left in their locker. You don’t want to look at yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I could have done a bit more’ because we won’t be having that.
“These players want to be near the first team so we’re seeing what the first team are doing because they have been fantastic since the new staff have come in. The players are seeing the games and we’ve been watching clips of the first team game against Manchester City where they were pressing the opposition, so the lads know what they’re doing and will try to implement it for us as well. It’s really pleasing that the things we’re doing during the week are happening for us on a Saturday.
“In the first couple of games against Chelsea and Reading we put it into the players to prepare defensively, and we’re actually thinking well, what are our strengths? The answer is they’re our attacking players like Sam Gallagher, Ryan Seager, Sam McQueen, Jake Flannigan etc. we’ve got goals in the team, so let’s go and be expressive in the final third and see if we can work on our defending in the background.”