U18 REACTION: Limbrick's praise for victorious Saints

By SFC Media time Sat 02 May U 18

Anthony Limbrick was full of praise for his young team’s defensive display after Southampton Under-18s beat Arsenal 2-1 away from home on Saturday.

Harley Willard – playing against his old club – scored twice in the first half, sandwiching an equaliser from Harry Donovan midway through the first period.

But it was the resolute, unflappable display of his makeshift back four that pleased the Under-18 coach the most, given that his squad has been decimated by injuries and international call-ups in recent weeks.

Connor Langan, Ben Rowthorn, Ben Cull and Richard Bakary made up the unfamiliar-looking defence, and stood strong in the face of considerable pressure from the Gunners after the break.

“Three out of the back four were playing out of position, which is a very good achievement for them,” said Limbrick.

“I think we had seven Under-16s on the pitch at the end of the game, so considering that, it was a really good achievement and the boys stepped up really well.

“I think Ben Cull and Ben Rowthorn started really well – they’ve never played together in that position before. It wouldn’t be the first choice centre-back pairing, but both of them in possession and out of possession were, in all, fantastic.

“Connor and Richard really helped them too. I thought Stu (Wilkin) came in the centre midfield towards the end of the game and did really well in there, putting himself about physically, which was pleasing.

“But considering that back four, and with young Jake (Hallett) in goal who did really well too, I was really, really pleased for them.”

Willard could’ve grabbed his hat-trick at the death when he headed against the crossbar after substitute Dan Demkiv’s shot had rebounded off the woodwork into his path.

And Limbrick also expressed his delight at the matchwinner’s contribution, again highlighting the work ethic of the team which helped them to victory in their penultimate Barclays Under-18 Premier League play-off fixture of the season.

“I thought it was great for Harley to get his two goals against his old club, so really enjoyed them, and two really good finishes, and overall they all had a great work rate and good intensity,” he said.

“Arsenal had some good possession, but didn’t really hurt us that much with the possession they had, which is a good sign. Our organisation was good, and we worked very hard to step their forward passes, and to stop them penetrating. They didn’t get in down the side or in behind us that often.

“We did have to dig in at times and defend for long periods, but every player did that today and I was really pleased with them.

“We intercepted, we were on the front foot today and physically provided a good match-up, and we won most of those individual battles.”

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