Radhi Jaïdi was left with mixed emotions after his Saints U23s side conceded a late equaliser at West Brom and spurned the chance to go top of the PL2 with one game remaining.
Saints dominated proceedings early on and ought to have been three or four goals to the good before Will Smallbone’s penalty gave them the advantage immediately after half time.
That early intensity and energy in the final third combined with the sloppy nature of the hosts’ equaliser – a free-kick from West Brom’s Morgan Rogers – left Jaïdi frustrated and proud in equal measure at his team’s efforts at the final whistle.
“We were the only team on the pitch in the first half, the application of the boys was great,” he said. “They delivered everything we prepared and dominated the game and we could have scored at least three times.
“We started the second half well too, scored the goal and that’s where the boys felt a little bit of the pressure and started conceding the play, which is normal. What wasn’t acceptable was the free-kick we gave away on the edge of the box after we had talked about the importance of game management.”
The result leaves Saints in third, remarkably level on points with both Reading and Wolves on 40 points with one game remaining.
Victory in the Midlands would have put Jaïdi’s youngsters in pole position to steal top spot but he believes the experience of the title race will be nothing but a positive influence on his players.
“At the end of the day, everyone should understand that these boys are learning all the time. Last week, it was how to start the game well and this time it is about how to manage a lead when you get in front and choose when to foul and when not.
“It’s a really good experience because it shows how much difference the small details can make at the top of the table or even from the other side in relegation.
“We have put ourselves in this really good situation so of course they are disappointed, very disappointed because they wanted to achieve something here today. It is still achievable.
“We have another game against Sunderland at St Mary’s so anything can happen. Football is a strange game – we saw it last night with Man City and Spurs – and it’s the same thing for any football player.
“It can always go either way so you just know to never give up. We will keep working hard and reflect and review what we’ve done here. We did really well here today apart from the goal we conceded.”