Fleming praises youngsters despite Arsenal defeat

By SFC Media time Tue 31 Jan Saints U18 vs Arsenal U18
Photo by Naomi Baker | Craig Fleming

Craig Fleming was full of praise for his young Southampton Under-18s side, despite their narrow 1-0 league defeat to Arsenal at Staplewood Campus.

Saints put on an impressive display against a strong Gunners outfit, but were outdone by an impressive first-half strike from Donyell Malen.

“Obviously we are disappointed to lose the game - we are all involved in football and competitive people,” started Fleming.

“But it was a very good performance; a really good performance from a young team that were playing against quite an old Arsenal side - I thought we were tremendous.

“In the first half we sat slightly too deep and probably paid them a bit too much respect. But we spoke about that at half time and came out in the second half and dominated.”

Saints created a number of good chances to equalise after the break, the best of which fell to Jonathan Afolabi and Harlem Hale.

But despite being unable to capitalise on those opportunities, Fleming was pleased with the progress his young side have started to show.

“That awful feeling of ‘if only’ never goes away, especially when you know you’ve outplayed a team as we did in the second half,” he continued.

“But we didn’t take the chances and that’s the job now: to develop these players and make them better. That’s certainly happening with the younger boys at the moment.

“They struggled a couple of months ago but have come in and performed great against Norwich and today I thought they were tremendous.

“They are a young bunch of first years and where they were at the start of the year to now is testament to the hard work they’ve put in.”