U21 PREVIEW: Southampton vs West Ham United

By SFC Media time Sun 25 Jan B Team

Saints Under-21s take on West Ham United on Monday afternoon hoping to extend their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions.

Martin Hunter’s side haven’t tasted defeat since the 3-1 reverse at the hands of Everton in September and, after last week’s 2-0 victory over Norwich City in the Under-21 Premier League Cup, also have a quarter-final clash with Watford to look forward to.

Technical Dircetor Hunter says despite the 11-day break from competitive action, his charges have trained hard this week in preparation for the visit of the Hammers to Staplewood.

“(Training has been) terrific as normal. The players have worked very hard, some of them have trained with the first team. It was great on Friday morning – the whole of the 21s were doing 11 vs 11 with the first team in their preparation for Palace tomorrow, so that’s great news,” he told Southampton’s official YouTube channel.

“If we’ve got a period of eight days, we’ll train harder. We’ll do bigger types of sessions, just to replicate what they’re going to get in the games.

“Obviously, with the run of games that are coming now, the focus will be on recovery and some very tight match preparation. The games will then take care of themselves.”

One of the stand-out performers in Southampton’s second string of late has been 18-year-old Jake Flannigan who, although also capable of playing in midfield, has made the right-back berth his own in recent weeks.

The youngster hopes both his versatility and the fact he’s currently part of a table-topping team will count in his favour as he bids to make the step-up to first-team football in the coming months.

“It’s a new challenge for me and I always look forward to new challenges, so I’m happy to play anywhere as long as I’m playing,” he said.

“I think it definitely helps me. If it gets me into the team, then I’m happy to be versatile and play anywhere.

“I like challenges, so that (the first team)’s where I want to be playing in years to come so I’m really looking to start pushing on and getting in and around the first team.

“Being on a good run shows all the players are in good shape, they’re performing well and I look forward to it.”

Monday’s visitors are currently rooted to the bottom of the Barclays Under-21 Premier League table, having picked up just eight points from their 11 games so far.

However, their side boasts Football League experience with Capital One Cup finalist Blair Turgott – who helped Bradford City to Wembley in 2013 – and former Colchester United loanee Ollie Lee, son of former Newcastle and England midfielder Rob, both regulars at Under-21 level.

Hunter believes the Hammers have the capacity to mix things up a little, and wants his players to focus on the task in hand rather than reading too much into the current standings.

“We’ve played them once this season, obviously beat them away from home, we’re expecting a different game,” he explained.

“They’ve played two different systems of play so we’re not quite sure what they’ll throw at us so we’ll prepare for that on Sunday and then we’ll see, as a result of Saturday’s (first-team) game, what players are available.

“We don’t talk about top vs bottom, we talk about another tough game that we need to win, so we’ll focus on that, not the position that teams are in in the league.”

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