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Stevenage 0 v 0 Colchester United
SkyBet League Two
Saturday, 4th January 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Saints V Huddersfield The Verdict
Sunday, 5th Jan 2020 11:04

A good crowd turned up at St Mary's to see the two full debutants score the goals that saw us through to the next round of the FA Cup.

It was a much changed crowd that turned up to see a much changed side take on Huddersfield in the FA Cup, many of the regulars in the Premier League gave this one a swerve and were replaced by hordes of families and kids, it made for a different atmosphere, but I'm not criticising, we need to be encouraging the younger generation to support their local team and not just a big six side.

But there was not a lot to excite them on the pitch, Saints put out a side with an equal mix of first teamers, fringe players and youngsters and they struggled to find any sort of rhythm.

They weren't helped by a Huddersfield side who looked content to sit back and see what happens and what happened was they barely got out of their own half or troubled our goal except when we deigned to give them the ball by some slack passing around the back line and their was plenty of that.

My main gripe about the side put out was that Kevin Danso was given a rare outing, yet he was played at right back rather than at centre half and although he was comfortable in defence going forward he was not so clever.

Vestergaard and Yoshida were the two central defenders and they did nothing to convince Ralph Hasenhuttl that they can force their way back into his plans, a better more interested side might have stretched them, luckily that was not Huddersfield.

So it was a lacklustre first half although Saints thought they had gone ahead when Shane Long ran through and finished with aplomb, but VAR intervened and it was chalked off.

The second half started well though, a deep Kevin Danso cross was headed back by Shane Long and Will Smallbone could easily have blazed over, but he kept his shot low and hard and in it went.

That gave Saints the control they needed and the visitors did not appear to be too bothered, the game then went into a familiar pattern, Saints passed it around a lot, not always accurately and Huddersfield occasionally half heartedly tried to take advantage.

The game looked to be petering out to the 1-0 defeat that both sides looked to be happy with when Jake Vokins let fly from distance for a spectacular goal.

Overall this was not a great game to watch and it probably didn't tell Ralph Hasenhuttl a lot either, he will have been buoyed by the two debutants scoring well taken goals, but he will probably feel they are not yet ready to push for a game in the Premier League just yet.

He will have learned little about Kevin Danso who out of position at right back still hasn't been tried in his true position in Central defence or even the centre of midfield.

Vestergaard and Yoshida did not star in the centre of defence and struggled to do anything other than pass the ball along the back line and even that they did not do well, emphasising the need to bring in a new central defender in January.

Sofiane Boufal should have stamped his authority on this game, but he again had little end product, he had some good runs that either ended with a poor cross, failing to even get one in or throwing himself to the ground.

He signalled to the bench that he wanted to come off even when he appeared to be uninjured, some Saints fans and probably the manager himself had high hope for the return of Boufal because of a couple of early performances, but he has rarely produced anything to suggest he should start games and this was one such performance, an impact player in the last 15 minutes at best.

In goal Angus Gunn got the game he needed under his belt, he did everything he had to with confidence and hopefully will be back to his best and push for a recall to the First team in the Premier League to keep Alex McCarthy on his toes.

A year ago we went out to another Championship side in Derby County and this game did show us that with the players we were missing that we do have a stronger squad this year, back then several of the team put out yesterday were considered first choices, now they are very much back up players, that should give us confidence that we are moving forward as a squad and can pull well clear of trouble at the bottom.

But Saints are through to the 4th round and that was the main aim of the day, we can hopefully get a good draw in this round and progress into the next which this year is not played until March, if by then we have virtually secured safety in the Premier League then we could take the competition seriously and look to mount a serious challenge.

Photo: Action Images



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underweststand added 11:26 - Jan 5
As you wrote (Nick) the game was memorable only for two goals from up-and-coming lads who will feature more in the future U23's than they will in the Prem. squad, but a good result nevertheless and will boost their confidence a lot. Typical bad luck for Shane Long to actually score (for once) and then have the goal VAR'd out.
Interesting comparison between Ralph's comment on Jake Vokins ..(he looks good going forward but need to learn more how to defend), and your observation " that Danso seemed happier defending than he was going forward.

What do we expect from full backs ? I watched 1960's Saints games where the full backs were almost banned from crossing the halfway line, whereas nowadays it's a foregone conclusion that we expect wingbacks to support the attacks, yet still defend at the back.

Good that some of "the bench regulars" got an outing, but the game did little to help Ralph decide who he will keep / replace in the January window, or who he will play in the next round - depending on the opposition. He might keep a similar line-up if we draw an L1 / L2 club, but certainly not if we get draw Prem. top six side.

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stmichael added 11:45 - Jan 5
Everything was backwards and sideways.
Very little bravery.
That which we had came mainly from Boufal but with little end product.
Che Adams desperate for a goal hardly received a pass.
Pretty turgid afternoon but we are through and that’s what matters.
Oh and Nick was able to mount another attack on his scapegoats Yoshida Westergard and 2 paragraphs on Boufal 😉
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bstokesaint added 12:48 - Jan 5
Vestergaard is not up to scratch. We’ve known that for a while. And we know Yoshida can cover adequately. I suspect the rise of Bednarak and Stephens is as much to do with a constant formation and consistent selection as anything else. We need a new centre back to challenge them, not just cover. Playing Danso out of position tells us nothing. About as much playing Boufal in a weakened team. Only other thing we learnt is we have some youngsters that might be up for moving up the pecking order. Fingers crossed for a good 5th round draw.
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underweststand added 13:55 - Jan 5
to bstokesaint
good points - well made but - don't we need to get through the 4th round first !
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A1079 added 14:24 - Jan 5
I had the impression seeing this, that this was a game that neither manager was bothered about winning. They probably wanted to avoid a draw even more, so once one side had taken the lead they were largely happy to settle with that.

It was a strange atmosphere because of the nature of the crowd, and if, as been suggested, crowds and support can effect a team performance, then the performance largely matched the atmosphere or vice versa.

Largely agree with Nick's summary, with some slight exceptions. I would argue that we have a strong squad. Yesterday, supported what I have thought for a long time. We lack real quality in depth. Ralph has largely now settled on his core first team with marginal adjustments. Opportunities for others to suggest that should be part of that core squad were largely not taken, especially by the older more experienced players. Romeu did what he does, alot of sideways passing and back and lacks any pace. I am beginning to think, that he may be one that we look to ship out in the summer (that is not to say, that I do not respect that he has been a good player for the club and nothing against him personally). Vestergaard is so slow and just plain poor, even in a game like this, he showed frailties. One classic pass or an effort of a pass was to Romeu who was surrounded by 3 other players at the time. Can he not read the game at all? Boufal - sorry, but I have had enough of this player. Ample opportunities now to have made his mark and I am struggling to think of more than one occasion where he has taken it (that exception was West Brom at home). The amount of times he goes down for the slightest of touches is embarrassing. For me, as well as some of those on loan - Carillo, Hoedt, I would add Romeu, Boufal and Vestergaard to go up for sale in the summer - whether anyone will take them remains to be seen.

Yoshida was ok and is worthy as back up and he does seem to play for the club and team.

JWP worked hard despite the nature of the game, as did Che Adams, but he cut a frustrated figure as he was left with scraps. This lad either needs a good opportunity to play in a team playing well or he is going to want to leave.

If any of Ralph's first choices become injured to any significant period, then filling the gaps may become problematic.

Onto the youngsters. They did pretty well and arguably showed more guile and positivity than some of those I mentioned above. Good to see them get the goals etc. They show potential. I was surprised not to see Slattery play. He looked last season as if he would push on but now seems to have slipped off the radar a bit.

It was a good win at home, despite my observations, and it shows some continued momentum. I think Ralph did the right thing with the squad to see how others would perform. A better team would have capitalised on us yesterday but Huddersfield really offered very little.

Overall though, not just with ourselves, but across the piece, sadly a competition that I used to look forward to with a sense of excitement is now a shadow of it's former self (especially in the early rounds - perhaps less so once you get to quarter final stage) and that issue can be laid at the feet of the media - TV especially and the football authorities. Between them and the attitude of the clubs with other financial interests, this competition will slowly die a death (though not before the League (Carabao) cup competition.
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amsterdamsaint added 15:15 - Jan 5
Stupid decision to take off Dansko instead of Vesterguard . He could have been moved to CB. Stop playing players out of position ffs Hass !
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davidargyll added 15:29 - Jan 5
Agree with the fact that yesterday’s game proved we don’t seem to have any depth to our squad. However I think one might add that, without game practice, it is perhaps asking a lot for vestergaard, yoshi etc to come into the pitch and immediately play like demons. Not that I am their greatest fans but being charitable maybe they were playing a safety first style game. But Boufal on the other hand does seem to have so many chances to prove he’s up to standard that surely his time must be nearly up.
The most positive conclusion I can come to is that up front we’ve got some quality coming through but at the back not really.
4

LoisDeem added 16:27 - Jan 5
Two teenagers show VERY CLEARLY the benefits of shooting on sight, (note to Danny Ing's usual team mates?) and for attending otherwise uninspiring games for just such moments. That this is providing Saints with another totally productive dimension and inspiration is an additional benefit for the fans and the growth of this club.
Yet again, Ralph's team changes are looking nigh on miraculous.
We're almost getting to official club statement time on Danso though. Was he brought in as a central defender or wing /full back or just further chaff spill to address the mindset of the masses?
Roll on the draw, and Mr Gao, do not forget you need to be properly active in the transfer window, as yesterday VERY CLEARLY reminded us.
3

SanMarco added 00:21 - Jan 6
I think Nick said in the preview that there was little point giving Vestergaard and Yoshida a game and they proved him right. Danso and a youngster would have been a far better idea. It is a bit unfair on poorer senior members of the squad to play them in games like this - Vestergaard in particular had nothing to gain from playing against a poor second division side.

We are through though and in the end if we get to Wembley no one will care how well we played in this one...
1

halftimeorange added 10:08 - Jan 6
Although we learned very little from this generally boring game- hardly an encouragement for kids to return to St Marys - I surmise that fringe players like Yoshida, Danso and Vestergaard can only get truly fit in playing in a game like this rather than run-of-the-mill training sessions and U-23 games however, Huddersfield presented very limited opposition. As for Che Adams, although I have my doubts about his true level of ability, unless he's actually given the ball, we'll never know what he's capable of. I felt for him on Saturday.
3

Colburn added 13:14 - Jan 6
We're through.. And with 10 changes, resting some and run outs to others. I didn't see the game but remember as a kid, not knowing much about tactics or patterns of play, it was all about the excitement of seeing your team score and hopefully win. So I'd imagine the youngsters attending would have been happy with their day out and looking forward to returning having seen 2 young lads grab the goals. A drubbing aside, I can't think of a much better outcome.

I can't disagree with the comments about our defenders, particularly the lack of opportunity for Kev to play CB on Sat. However it's a bit harder for the likes of Che and Boufy to just step in and shine in a makeshift side, any player needs a proper run in a strong first team before they can be fairly judged and, although I agree Boufy needs to be more dynamic and less theatrical, he has a touch of genius. Redmond has had dozens of poor games, passing to the opoosition, bottling out of challenges and headers and you claim he was nearly back to his best recently.. I dont see it.. apart from his goal at Chelsea, one moment. If Boufal had have played in those games during our poor run and wasted various opportunities in the last third, stray passes, blind alleys, wrong decisions, you would have been going nuts, calling for him to be dropped after each game.. but you've given pass after pass for Redmond, who has superb potential and I keep hoping each game he's going to really perform, but this season that's been like rocking horse poo.. I think you're a little harsh on some individuals Nick when they haven't had a fair crack yet. Jack Stephens has shown what a good run in the team can do for you, in the face of adversity too!
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KriSaint added 13:34 - Jan 6
I echo much of the other comments, but I´d like to add that I don´t agree that Danso is useless as right back.
1. He is VERY young. Let him mature. Let him grow. Let him learn to play BOTH RB and CB. And maybe even DM.
2. He tries his best, obviously. Tactically, physically, technically.
3. He has a mean throw-in.
I´d also like to as: when was the last time we saw Saints start a second half with the ball, keep it for 2 minutes and then score without the opponent having touched the ball?
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KriSaint added 13:35 - Jan 6
I´d also like to ask: when was the last time we saw Saints start a second half with the ball, keep it for 2 minutes and then score without the opponent having touched the ball?

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