Craig Fleming is looking for his Southampton’s Under-18s side to put in a complete performance ahead of Saturday’s trip to Manchester United.
Fleming has been pleased with the team’s more solid defensive showing in recent weeks, and while he wants to maintain that aspect, the U18s coach has also called for a more clinical showing in front of goal and in possession.
The youngsters have suffered narrow back-to-back defeats to Stoke and Derby, and go into this weekend’s match looking to close the gap to United who have taken ten points from their opening six matches of the play-offs, compared with Saints’ five, from five games played.
“Ideally we want both parts of the game put together,” Fleming explained to youtube.com/southamptonfc
“Too many times this season we’ve either had a really good game in possession and been pretty poor defensively, or the other way around so we’re just working on putting both together at the same time.
“Post-Christmas I think we’ve improved and we’ve been a lot more resilient and much harder to beat individually and in the units which has been really pleasing but like I say it’s just putting what we can do on the ball with that.”
Fleming acknowledges the size of the task, but hopes that the U18s will perhaps look to inspiration from Saints’ Under-21 side who beat their United counterparts 2-1 earlier in the week.
“It will be a difficult game,” he noted. “It’s difficult to judge as they’ve got very big squads so it just depends what they put out to be honest. They’re older boys are obviously very, very good as some of them have been in and around the first team as has been well-documented this season and they’ve got some good young players as well.
“It will be a tough game against a very technical team who play in a similar style to the under-21s that our boys just played so it will be a tough game but a good one to play in.
“Looking at the game they’re quite tight and at this part of the season is really difficult to judge (their team),” he added.
“We get some teams who have been predominantly like ourselves under-16s and first years because their second years have moved on, and we’ve played other teams like Derby for instance who were predominantly second years, so it’s difficult to judge with the age of the players, and if we put our strongest eleven out then it looks very different in experience compared with the boys who have come in as under-16s.
“We’ve got two games left until the end of the season so it’s about keep building on what we’ve done so far and look for improvements individually which we’ve seen all season long, and just to enjoy it. We have two very good games to go with Man United and Newcastle, so just go out and enjoy it and do the things we’ve been working on.”