It was a night to forget for Radhi Jaïdi’s U23s at Staplewood Campus on Monday night as visitors Aston Villa ran out comfortable 4-1 winners.
Three Villa goals in 16 first-half minutes proved critical for Saints who rarely got going at Staplewood in their first competitive fixture since early December.
For coach Jaïdi, a sloppy start cost his side dearly despite an improved performance following Sam McQueen’s consolation strike on the stroke of half-time.
“We started poorly and gave them the advantage and the confidence to keep attacking,” he commented. “It’s the first game since we’ve come back and the boys took too long to react and get going.
“The little positive from the game was the way we started the second half where we had a decent 20-minute spell but too few of them raised their level to match Villa’s.
“They have some good individuals and worked hard for their win and that’s what kept us on the back-foot throughout; the fourth goal killed the game.”
Besides McQueen’s well-taken effort, the Saints U23s coach could take the positives from a 90-minute appearance for Josh Sims who continues to work towards a full return to fitness.
“Simsy has been away for a long period. It will take time to recover his fitness levels first and then his understanding and starting position on the pitch will follow.
“He played too deep in the first half so we told him to push on in the second and to sit on the shoulder of the last defender and make the difference for us but the supply to him unfortunately wasn’t there.
“I’m sure all of that will come soon and more game time will help him get to a good level again.”