Jake Hesketh says Saints’ Under-21 side have come back from their week’s break from playing ready to take on the league leaders at the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
The midfielder says that although the enforced time without playing interrupted a good run of form for Martin Hunter’s men, the team is keen to get going again.
Wins over Liverpool and Middlesbrough have generated some momentum going into the game on Wearside, and Hesketh is relishing the chance to test himself against the top team again.
“I think we had hit a good bit of form so it was a bit annoying to have the break in between (this week) but we’ve had a couple of days off, and we feel refreshed and ready to go again,” he told youtube.com/southamptonfc
“It will be a tough game,” he added. “They beat us earlier in the season and then in the fixture up there last season we started slow, but once we got into the game we were the better team which gives us a bit of confidence knowing that we can beat them.
“They’ll be an experienced side as Martin has mentioned with a few overage players, but I think if we can match them and win our battles early on to get the ball down then we can play well.”
Hesketh feels Saints’ strength in attack could provide the key to success, and adds that confidence is high in the squad heading into the game following their recent victories.
“We’ll be pressing them high to get them under pressure early doors and use the pace we’ve got up front,” he explained.
“Martin [Hunter] and Radhi [Jaïdi] have been saying that they have a few overage defenders in particular so we’ve got pace up front with Simsy [Josh Sims], Sammy [Gallagher] and Fela [Olomola] so we could stretch them early doors and release the space for ourselves to do our stuff.
“The Middlesbrough game was a bit more scrappy, but the last game against Liverpool was overall our best display in ages. Everything clicked so I think we’ve got to take confidence from that and take it into the game.
“Before that it had been a while not really picking up wins or playing too well.”
Hesketh has played a key role in Saints’ upturn in fortunes with two goals and five assists in the last five games which is form he’s looking to take into the final three matches of the campaign.
“I’ve felt good and have been lucky enough not to pick up any injuries so hopefully that will continue and I’ve felt really good going into every game,” he outlined.
“Maybe my form went off a little bit after Christmas, but I feel in the last three or four games I’ve really picked it back up so hopefully I can carry that on into the next few games.”