Martin Hunter believes Southampton’s second half performance against Manchester United on Monday night warranted at least a point.
Saints went down 1-0 against the Barclays Under-21 Premier League leaders at Leigh Sports Village, as Ashley Fletcher’s 17th-minute strike won in for the hosts.
But, after seeing his side put in a spirited display after the break – in which they hit the crossbar twice – Technical Director Hunter was pleased with the character shown by his team in their attempts to pull themselves level.
“Second half, I thought they took on board a lot of things that were said at half time, and I thought we were very good and bordering on excellent at times,” he told Southampton’s official YouTube channel.
“One long ball’s gone in to their striker and he’s scored, and then it was a scrappy first half, but second half – a very, very good performance.
“Sam’s brought a good save off the keeper right at the death, and we’ve hit the bar twice, which is good to say the least, and their keeper was kept far more busy – Will (Britt)’s had one corner to deal with from a long back-post delivery, but he’s not had a save to make in second half.
“We’ve beaten them 1-0 at home and equipped ourselves more than adequately today, and (now there are) three games to go.”
United fielded first-teamers – and full internationals – Phil Jones and Adnan Januzaj against Saints, whilst the visitors handed a first start at Under-21 level to Alfie Jones, who took his place in midfield alongside fellow Under-18s Marcus Barnes and defender Ollie Cook.
Hunter was encouraged by some of his young charges’ showings, but called on his more experienced players to stand up and be counted as the season reaches its conclusion.
“We talked about this is a great opportunity top show how good, or how good potentially, they are,” he said. “Some of them have grasped that, and some of the more senior players need to have a look. They were not as good as we would’ve liked.
“I thought he (Jones) was very calm, I thought he was very mature at times. Probably not his best position, but he’s gone in there and done a good job for the other two midfield players, so I’m pleased with him.
“Barnesy was lively, worked hard, it’s a different level obviously to the Under-18s. Ollie Cook was very solid and got more and more accomplished as the game went on.
“We’ve obviously had a run of two games now without a league win, so we need to put that right a week tonight at St Mary’s.”