Jason Dodd rued a rare lack of bravery in attack from Saints Under-18s as they exited The FA Youth Cup after a 3-1 defeat to Charlton Athletic.
After cancelling out the Addicks’ opener at St Mary’s through a deflected Jake Hesketh goal, Southampton were eliminated in the Fourth Round by two quick goals from a strong Charlton side.
Despite the loss, Saints put on an admirable display but Dodd was frustrated that their good work in certain areas wasn’t replicated in the final third.
“Conceding a goal in the first few minutes set us back,” he admitted to Saints Player. “It was a poor goal for us to concede. We’d worked really hard on our set plays because we knew Charlton would be good. The pleasing thing is we kept going.
“We just didn’t create and I didn’t feel we were brave enough in the final third. We have some excellent play in our half and the middle third but we just didn’t have the quality in the final third to break them down.
“We did win the ball in really good areas; it was just the decision-making [that let us down]. When you look at players in our First Team, the players that play in the Premiership, it’s those that make the best decisions and the right decisions – the ones that progress. We just maybe chose the wrong options at important times tonight.
“Their strength was in their two centre-halves. We knew that, so we needed to be braver with our movement. We kept the ball well but with no real impetus and no real drive to create that.
“I don’t think their ‘keeper had too much to do. Mind you, I don’t think Harry [Isted] didn’t have much to do either. We knew it was going to be a tight game but tonight we just didn’t have what we’ve been seeing previously in games. When we’ve been getting quality, we’ve been scoring goals. Tonight, we just found it hard.
“We knew how they were going to play. We knew they were going to get people behind the ball. It’s up to good players to be able to break them down. We moved the ball well but we were thinking that when we got the ball, we had to go and score. It doesn’t work like that. You have to move the opposition. They might go from switching the play a few times to open that opportunity up. Maybe we didn’t do that enough tonight.”
After conceding that Charlton were deserved victors, Dodd maintained that his side can come away with positives to build on for the future, following what he felt was a tireless and commendable outing from Saints.
The coach was also grateful for the luxury of being able to select Development Squad players Jason McCarthy and Jake Flannigan – a pair he thought shone on the evening – and pointed to how their inclusion helped to boost the healthy competition in the squad.
“We knew what Charlton were about,” the ex-Saints defender continued. “They came with a game plan as a big, strong, physical side. They deserved to win tonight, there’s no question about that.
“From our point of view, our boys have got to learn from that. We’ve got to step up to the mark. If you’re not six-foot-four and you’re five-foot-seven or five-foot-eight, then you’ve got to be smarter. We just didn’t have that smarter play today. We just didn’t have that quality this evening.
“The lads are shattered. We can’t fault their effort. They could not have done any more. We just tried to give them some pointers. If they want to progress, these are the areas that they’ve got to work on.
“They’ll go away tonight and think about their positives and the areas where they can develop. If they work at those and continue with the positive play that they’ve got, they’ve got a great chance to make a career here.
“They (Flannigan and McCarthy) were excellent tonight. You can’t fault them. That’s why they’re in the Development Squad – they are good players. I felt a bit for Kyle Clinton, who’s played more or less every game [this season]. We had a chat with him beforehand.
“It’s tough on some of the lads that have been playing, but this is what it’s going to be like in the First Team environment. They’ve got to learn from that. They’ve got to go away and get better so that when the time comes again it’s not going to be them that are left out of the side.”