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Hunter expects powerful Hammers

PUBLISHED

16:25 13th February 2014

by Alex Urquhart-Cannon

Martin Hunter is prepared for a physically challenging and direct approach when Saints’ Development Squad travel to face West Ham on Friday evening.

The Barclays Under-21 Premier League clash – a 7pm kick-off at the Rush Green Stadium – represents great significance for both sides as Southampton sit just one point and one place beneath the Hammers in eighth in the table.

After a technical battle with Arsenal that ended in stalemate last week, Hunter is expecting more of the complete opposite coupled with flashes of skill from West Ham.

“We know a lot about West Ham,” he told saintsfc.co.uk. “We’ve played them several times and, as we’ve said before about other sides, they play very similar to their first team. They’ll be a different proposition than Arsenal. They’ll be more direct and more physical, so we need to cope with what they can do and then do what we normally do.

“They’ve got some skilful players. They’ve obviously done well in the league. I think they lost to Manchester United at Old Trafford the other night, though. They play on a non-league ground so the surface won’t be as good as what we’ve been used to. We need to cope with their style of play and the pitch conditions.

“We’ll get the ball out from the back whenever we can and play through them, either directly through them or down the sides of them.”

Hunter paid tribute to fellow Under-21 coach Radhi Jaidi for the contribution he’s had in ensuring that Saints have managed to keep an impressive three clean sheets in the last four outings.

The Development Squad boss drew more positives from how the majority of his side have remained unscathed ahead of the tie, with Will Britt and long-term absentee Bevis Mugabi the only players not to be included for the Hammers encounter.

Hunter continued: “The clean sheets are down to a lot of work that Radhi Jaidi has done with them and that’s a constant part of their diet. There has been some good work going on. We’ve asked for consistency and that seems to have fallen into place recently.

“We went through a pre-season where we had clean sheets and then we’ve had games where we’ve conceded goals. In the life of a football team, that’s just what happens.

“Will Britt is injured, as is Bevis [Mugabi]. Other than that, we have a clean bill of health, which is pleasing.

“Bevis is making good progress. We speak to him regularly. The medical team are doing a marvellous job as normal and we’re looking to do things with him in terms of DVD footage that he can learn from while he can’t actually get on the training pitch.”

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