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Saints 0 Blackpool 1
ONE downside to having a young team is they do much of their learning on the pitch.
And when that happens you can get inconsistent, even poor, performances, interspersed with terrific ones.
It can be frustrating – but that is the nature of the beast.
Saints have gone down the route of having a young side and these are the consequences of it.
But if you do believe in the long term plan then, as frustrating as it can be, you have to stick by them.
The inconsistencies of youth were there for all to see over the space of one week with Saints Against Derby they were brilliant, just superb.
Against Birmingham not quite so mercurial, but still very good.
Against Blackpool they were at best average, at worst poor.
Many people will scratch their heads and wonder how a team that had such verve transformed into what they saw against Blackpool.
Well, that’s the down side of a young team.
By it’s very definition it is not experienced, it needs to learn how to get results when things are going badly, it needs to learn to have an answer to the different questions it will be posed.
You can train all you like but the best and really only place to do your serious learning is out there in a match situation when the pressure is on.
It’s then you find out about yourself and your teammates.
And it’s there that skill and quality only count for anything when it’s matched by heart and commitment, not only physically but mentally.
Saints really have gone the whole hog with young players.
Though they have an experienced back three of Kelvin Davis, Michael Svensson and Chris Perry, there is precious little anywhere else.
At times it shows. Certainly it did against Blackpool who were good enough to exploit Saints’ shortcomings.
The shape of the team wasn’t quite right, players looked jaded and got caught out both in possession and positionally.
Saints didn’t have the experience, or maybe the instruction, to realise it wasn’t their day and try and adapt their style of play.
Every time Blackpool poured forward on the counter attack, breaking at speed to support their lone frontman, they looked dangerous.
Saints did create chances but just didn’t look as though they were going to take them. There was too much indecision in the final third, too many touches and passes, not enough standing up and being brave.
Blackpool had an early chance to take the lead as Ian Evatt found himself unmarked attacking a long throw, but he put his diving header wide from six yards.
Only Andrew Surman’s excellent challenge kept out Steve Kabba before ex-Saint Adam Hammill lifted the ball to the far post where Ben Burgess slid in but failed to make a clean connection.
Adam Lallana had two efforts off the line in the space of two minutes, the first a low sidefooted effort cleared by Rob Edwards, the second at the far post kept out by Evatt.
As the first half fizzed along Kelvin Davis pulled off a good near post save to keep out Gary Taylor- Fletcher before Simon Gillett and David McGoldrick made Paul Rachubka work at the other end.
But Blackpool always looked the more likely and got themselves the lead in first half stoppage time.
Taylor-Fletcher chased out a deep corner and was allowed to turn back into the box where Jamie White floored him with a clumsy challenge. A penalty was given and Burgess sent Davis the wrong way.
Things got worse in the second half for Saints as their football started to unravel.
Davis saved well from David Fox before the first of three disallowed Blackpool goals, this one a corner turned onto the bar by the Saints keeper and bundled home by Kabba – but there had been a clear foul on the Saints keeper.
The next two also involved Kabba, both times being caught offside, first from a melee in the box after Nathan Dyer had cleared Shaun Barker’s header off the line, the second turning home David Vaughan’s shot.
In between, Lallana got a hattrick of his own as Edwards cleared another effort off the line.
Stern John had a good chance with a diving header he steered wide before Davis made a brilliant save to turn Burgess’ shot across goal onto the far post.
Saints almost snatched an unlikely equaliser in stoppage time when McGoldrick’s drive smacked against the angle of post and bar.
But overall it was a day of frustration and proof that youth will provide you with lows as well as highs as they learn their lessons.