Jason Dodd is confident that Saints’ Under-18s can replicate their last performance in The FA Youth Cup when they face Charlton Athletic in the Fourth Round on Wednesday.
The youngsters welcome the Addicks to St Mary’s – for a 7pm kick-off – after demolishing local rivals Portsmouth seven-nil in front of thousands at the stadium in the previous round.
And Dodd has faith in his side’s ability after an encouraging three-nil away win over West Brom was followed by intense training from motivated, aspiring U18s throughout the week.
“It would be nice,” Dodd told Saints Player when asked about the possibility of repeating the Third Round display. “That’s probably one of the best performances I’ve had since I’ve been at the Club. It’ll be tough but I don’t see why not – they’ve set the standard, they’ve set the bar.
“We’re at home after the Arsenal game – hopefully the First Team can get a win on the Tuesday – and then a few supporters might want to come out and support the young boys on the Wednesday. They’re up for it as you can imagine at the moment. Everyone wants to be playing, so the training sessions at the moment are high-tempo and they’re trying to stake a claim to play.
“We’re in decent form. We’re scoring goals – which always helps – and got a clean sheet [against West Brom]. The pleasing thing at West Brom is that we got lots of blocks and challenges and defending. Me and Paul Williams being defenders, that’s what we like to see. Okay, it was our fault to get to there – we shouldn’t have been in a position to be making those challenges.
“The good thing is that the boys were putting themselves on the line and really, I imagine they would have had half a thought on the Charlton game. Before the game we spoke to them and said, ‘We’ve got one, maybe two games before Charlton. It’s about you playing yourself into the team.’ A lot of them on that day did themselves justice.”
Dodd is wary of the mix of styles that the midweek opponents employ, with their players boasting strengths in both physical and technical departments.
The former Saints full-back is also keen for the U18s to ignore a potentially mouthwatering tie with Arsenal in the Fifth Round and to focus on the task ahead.
When quizzed on Charlton, Dodd said: “Me and Paul [Williams] went up to see them in the previous round when they played Nottingham Forest. They’re a good side. They’ve got a couple of international players. They’re what you expect from Charlton. They’re big and physical but they try to play as well. We’re looking forward to it.
“It’s difficult because you know who you’re going to get in the next round. We’re just trying to focus on Charlton. That’s our main aim. A few years ago we had the next opposition and we played Nottingham Forest – we got turned over. We’re not trying to get too ahead of it.
“We know Charlton are a really good side. I think they’ve only lost one game all season, so it tells you they’re in decent form. They’ve got some really good players, but I want that. It’s a test. It’s going to be at St Mary’s with a bit of pressure because there’ll be fans there. This is how we find out about our players and to see if they’re going to progress up to the Development and First Team squads.”