Jason Dodd feels Saints Under-18s’ 1-1 draw with Fulham was a fair result.
Sam Gallagher’s header was cancelled out by a late George Williams penalty in the hard-fought encounter at Staplewood, but the U18s coach was delighted for the former to net in front of Mauricio Pochettino and the First Team staff who were keenly watching on.
Dodd also believes the clash epitomised certain downfalls that the youngsters have demonstrated throughout the season so far – weaknesses he’s eager to work on as soon as the U18s return after New Year.
When asked for his assessment on the draw with the league leaders, Dodd told Saints Player: “I think they (Fulham) would have been pretty distraught if they hadn’t have got something out of the game. I’d say they edged the first half. I’d say it was fairly even in the second half.
“[Our goal was] a good set-play. We worked at it and asked the players to move it around. I was pleased for Sammy Gallagher because he had a lot of work today and he didn’t really get too much – our service into him wasn’t great. I was pleased for him to get his goal with the manager watching with the First Team staff, so it puts him in the window for the game on Sunday.
“Again, I think this highlighted the first half of the season for us. In patches, we’re doing okay. Apart from the Portsmouth game, we haven’t really done it consistently over 90 minutes – that’s just an area we’ve got to focus on.
“You know what you’re going to get from Fulham. They have some big boys, some big strong lads in the middle of the park and attacking players. It was a little bit of a test for us.
“We just wanted to have more influence on the game. We didn’t influence or dictate the game as much as we have done. We know that, physically, they’re a lot stronger than us and bigger but that still doesn’t stop us getting the ball down and playing which is one of our strengths. We just did it in little bits today, which was disappointing.
“At nil-nil, we thought there was only going to be one goal in it. We nicked that first one so you think that’s going to be it, but we switched off and gave away a soft penalty. But on the whole, I’ve got to say, playing against Fulham and taking one each today was encouraging and we’ve got something to build on.
Dodd was keen to stress that he is mainly focusing on the performance – not always the result – that the youngsters put on and feels he’s seen ample improvement from the U18s so far this season.
The coach confirmed his aims for 2014 are to add consistency and improve quality of displays, along with ensuring that the U18s continue to make deserved steps up to the Development Squad and beyond.
He continued: “I know it’s the old cliché, but I’m more interested in our performance, how we perform individually and collectively as a team. Some of ours found it tough today and some came out of it okay. We’ll go back and we’ll debrief it.
“Tomorrow, we can get together before they (the U18s) go away on their little break for Christmas. Hopefully, we’re going to give them some targets to go away and really work for because we really want to push on in the second half of the season.
“We’ve had a good four-and-a-half months working with them, some of them we’ve been with 16 or 17 months. We want to show what we see on the training ground more on a matchday – that’s the only thing that’s missing with our performance at the moment.
“It’s pleasing that we’re sending boys up to the Development group and they’re doing well there and getting a sniff of the First Team – that’s our aim. Our aim is to get as many players as we can into the Development group and then into the First Team. But also, I like to win at everything – it’s as simple as that. The winning is nice but it’s about the performance and the lads pushing on. I’d say we’ve been reasonably happy. Most of the players – almost all of them – have had improvements, so we’ll be looking for the step-up after Christmas.
“Can we get bigger periods of play in the game where the performance is better and lasts a little bit longer, rather than patches? Really, it’s just to get physically strong, and mentally as well.”