Anthony Limbrick feels Saints Under-18s can take away many positives after their 2-0 defeat to Villarreal, an academy side the coach believes is one of the strongest in Spain.
Southampton were unfortunate not to score in the first game of their pre-season trip to Spain on Sunday morning when Marcus Barnes had a shot cleared off the line and another rattling the crossbar inside the opening 12 minutes.
Villarreal soon rose in confidence at their own training ground and eventually sealed a victory with second-half goals from Beli and Akale.
Despite conceding two goals, Limbrick was pleased with his side’s defending and was relieved to get his youngsters some game-time having arrived a week before their match with the Spaniards.
The U18 boss told the club’s official YouTube channel: “We’ve had a really hard week’s-worth of work since we’ve been here, working two sessions a day. In terms of what we’re working on with our defending and looking at our pattern and shape, the boys did really well.
“In the first half we started really well. We had three or four really good chances; you could say that we had the best chances in the game. It was a good test but it showed the quality of their side.
“They have one of the better academies in Spain and individually they were probably better than us but we’re happy with the team performance and to get minutes into the boys.
“They were probably a bit older than us. It was good for some of those younger players to get game-time and it was pleasing to see them progress and do well.
“It feels like forever since we played a game but it’s only been a week for some of the boys. We got here on the Sunday, so it was good to put the boys out on the field for them and for us as well.”
Limbrick does feel that the encounter demonstrated a need for his side to be more clinical but maintains that will come with time closer to the season’s beginning.
“I think there are plenty of positives to take from the game,” the coach affirmed. “Even though we conceded two goals we did defend quite well and we created numerous chances.
“If we can tidy up our quality in the final third it’d really put us in good stead. They probably dominated possession but there are lots of positives we can take.
“We’re not looking to peak today. We’ve got four more games until the start of the Premier League season so we’re looking to peak for that game. The boys were tired today and it was noticeable especially towards the end of both halves, but I think in terms of their fitness they’re spot on at the moment.”
Meanwhile, Armani Little claimed the side need to work on ball retention ahead of matches with Girona and RCD Espanyol next week.
“I think when we regain the ball because of the heat it’s important to keep it,” the young midfielder reasoned. “We should work on our possession and keeping it better.
“We’ve been working on that in training a lot – our shape out of possession. We need more communication in the team and pressing.”
Watch coach Limbrick and midfielder Armani Little speak to youtube.com/southamptonfc after the game: