Jason Dodd is looking for players in younger ranks to intensify their efforts to be in contention for Saints Under-18’s final stretch of the season – starting with Norwich on Saturday.
Several U16 players were given a taste of action under the watchful eye of Dodd when the U18s overturned a deficit to beat Exeter City 3-2 in a February friendly at Staplewood.
The coach is now hoping that other youngsters can follow in the footsteps of U16 centre-back Alfie Jones into his selection process for upcoming 2013/14 games.
“We want some of the U16s to be pushing,” Dodd declared to saintsfc.co.uk. “Alfie Jones has been the shining light for them but we’ve had a lot of the U16s training with us for the last three or four weeks.
“Joe Lea is doing really well. Stuart Wilkins is doing really well. Ollie Cook is pushing as well, among others. If they’re producing in training with us, they’re putting pressure on the U18s and it means they have to keep performing to keep their places, which they are doing.
“There’s the Development Squad’s game to consider on the Monday, so we’re unsure on personnel for Norwich this weekend just yet. It depends on our numbers.”
The U18 boss revealed goalkeeper Harry Isted will undergo late fitness tests ahead of the Canaries welcoming, while maintaining he’s giving thoughts to the likes of George Mells and Will Wood – a pair of substitutes who combined to put last weekend’s game beyond Fulham – among others for selection.
Dodd confirmed: “Harry Isted has an injury at the moment, so he’ll have some late checks on his fitness.
“We’ve spoken to the boys who came on as substitutes last week and the others who are fighting to get into the team and they’re itching to start. That’s the way it should be – but they can’t just suddenly turn it on for 20 to 30 minutes on a matchday. We want to be seeing it every day.
“We’ve had a chat about one of the boys as we’ve not been happy with the work that he’s doing lately. To be fair, the session he did today was fantastic as a result.
“Now, I want him to be knocking on the door to play and then it’s going to make it hard for me to leave him out.
“That’s what it’s like in the First Team as well. This is why we try and replicate them – so it becomes a natural occurrence when they progress to Martin Hunter’s Under-21s and onto the First Team.”
Despite falling to a 2-0 loss the last time the two sides met, Dodd is adamant he won’t alter the recent style of his side as he insists the U18s performed to an acceptable standard in that encounter.
Whatever eleven the former Saints full-back fields, he expects a display worthy of his methods against a side he pointed out as having a patchy record – a season-long run which sees them occupy seventh in the Barclays Under-18 Premier League.
The coach concluded: “We’re coming on the back of a decent second-half performance at Fulham, so we’ll be looking to carry that on.
“The last time against Norwich we didn’t do too bad. It was long balls that we got caught on. I saw them play last week against Reading, but Reading were strong and bossed it.
“We don’t change. Even if the personnel changes, which it does, the lads coming in know exactly how we play and we expect them to go out and do a job.
“Norwich have won a few games but they’ve lost a few as well, which tells you they’re a little bit hit-and-miss.”