Anthony Limbrick declared himself pleased with his side’s second-half showing despite their eventual 2-0 defeat at Fulham on Saturday.
A first-half Aaron Redford brace – including one from the penalty spot – handed the Cottagers the three points, bringing Saints’ three-game winning streak to an abrupt halt.
However, after his side turned in a spirited display after the restart, Under-18s coach Limbrick praised his team’s resolve, and reckons his youngsters could have taken a point away from Motspur Park.
“It was quite a frustrating first half really,” he told Southampton’s official YouTube channel. “We started a bit sloppy and credit to Fulham – they came out really quickly and pressed us and worked hard.
“[Fulham] were quite aggressive and physical, but in a good way. They stopped us from playing out and we found it difficult to get on the ball.
“At half-time, though, we had a chat with the players and said what we needed and they did everything in the second half that they could have done. We started on the front foot, we pressed well, we played between the lines, created three great chances – hit the post from one – and then I think Carel Kayembe had one at the far post.
“Sometimes you talk about character and how well the team does when you get back and you draw 2-2 or you win 3-2. I think we could have easily drawn 2-2 today with that second half performance, so I was really pleased with the character in the second half, and the improvements that they made from the first half.”
Olufela Olomola, Harley Willard and Carel Kayembe all had opportunities to reduce the deficit after the break, but found a combination of the woodwork, the Cottagers’ goalkeeper and their own profligacy blocking their route to goal.
Limbrick was happy with the way his side fought back, even if they didn’t quite manage to mount a comeback, and believes the experience of facing a physical team in tricky conditions will prove invaluable to their development as players.
“The second half was really positive, and we highlighted that to the players, about their good character and mentality to come back, because it could have gone the other way at 2-0 and they could have got on top of us, but we were the ones who were making the play and did really well in the second half and I think on another day we could’ve had a couple of goals,” he said.
“At their age, it’s a development process and they need to learn how to adapt to different conditions, different opposition. The opposition were physical today and they pressed us and worked hard, and that was good because it’s a different type of test for them, so they need to learn how to do that and when to play and earn the right to play earlier on in games.
“We didn’t quite do that first half, but in the second half we more than matched them in every area.”