Hunter praises improved Under-21s display

By SFC Media Tue 09 Feb Club

Martin Hunter praised a much-improved performance from Southampton’s Under-21s side, after they drew 1-1 at home to Tottenham Hotspur.

After a run of three straight defeats, culminating in the disappointing Under-21 Premier League Cup exit to Huddersfield, Saints got back to form at St Mary’s on Tuesday night.

Jake Hesketh’s second-half stunner looked as though it might give them all three points, but the experienced Nabil Bentaleb struck to earn Spurs a point in the Barclays Under-21 Premier League clash.

Reflecting on his team’s performance, Technical Director Hunter told "It was much better. First half was a bit stop and start, but, having said that, we created two good chances. 

“They probably had better possession at times, but we said a few things at half-time. Second half I think we were definitely more dominant. Obviously, it was a really good goal, and then disappointed to concede like we did, but a much, much better performance.

“I thought the work-rate was terrific, some of the defending was very good, and our open play as the game went on, particularly in the second half, was more decisive.”

Hunter also praised the display of 15-year-old left-back Jake Vokins, who played most of the game after replacing Josh Debayo in the early stages.

"We've had two young players playing tonight,” said Hunter. “Alfie Jones I thought had a very accomplished game and Jake Vokins – Jake played I think 60 minutes on Saturday [for the under-18s] and Josh's injury meant he played virtually the whole game. He's a young boy and we've got very high hopes of him.

"He's a player with a great desire. He's definitely got his feet on the ground and knows where he wants to go, and stepping into that, stepping into the stadium again, having made his debut in the Youth Cup, he's made a very positive impression.”

On Debayo’s injury, Hunter added: "He's gone to hospital. I think it's a shoulder problem. Hopefully it's not going to be too severe.”

While Spurs had some experience in their side, Saints did too, with Cuco Martina and Juanmi both starting.

"Cuco's been particularly good with the younger players, talking to them, and they will benefit from that experience with the communication skills that he's got, so it's always good,” said Hunter.

“We've got a very good group of senior players here, I can't think if anyone who has come into the 21s and not actually helped and really coached the players during the heat of the game, so that was good.”

Hunter believes Tuesday night’s result is now a good platform from which to build.

"It certainly is,” he said. “We go to Everton next Monday. Always very, very tough, and I think we will be young again. We'll probably blood some more younger players next Monday, so we'll look forward to that.”

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