Martin Hunter’s Under-21 side were triumphant in the North East for the second time this season with a 1-0 win at Sunderland.
Without a win in three games heading into a tough looking assignment, Saints put in what Hunter described as, “an excellent performance” both in terms of the opposition and on a tricky surface affected by the cool weather on Wearside.
The visitors dominated possession and went close to taking the lead through Sam Hoskins before finally making the breakthrough on 20 minutes when Lloyd Isgrove’s corner was headed in by Calum CHAMBERS as Saints’ persistence from set plays paid off.
With senior players Jack Cork and Danny Butterfield in the side, Hunter’s team were led by a pair of experienced heads who set the example to follow for the younger players.
The youngest Saints player on display, first year scholar Matt Targett, was an impressive contributor on the night, as were fellow defenders Jack Stephens and Jordan Turnbull, who marshalled England Under-21s forward Connor Wickham well throughout the game.
A more even second 45 saw fewer chances created, but both Hoskins and Chambers had opportunities to increase the advantage towards the end of the contest where Saints finished as the stronger side, as they were good value for their slender win.
With a clean sheet to boot, it was a successful night all round as the victory also closed the gap to leaders Tottenham to just two points, with Hunter’s side travelling to White Hart Lane next Monday night.
“It was a challenge for us tonight in many areas and we came through it with flying colours,” Hunter beamed post match.
“The whole team earned a clean sheet and I was very pleased with the three strikers as well. The two senior professionals were great role models, with Cork putting in every block and Danny Butterfield’s communication good for the younger players.
“Young Matty Targett made his debut for this side at 17 years old. He was very composed and sensible so I was delighted with his defensive display.
“It’s a tight division that we’re in and we go to Tottenham next week playing in a Premier League stadium that will bring us a different set of circumstances to deal with, but it’s one we are looking forward to.”
Saints U21s: Johns, Butterfield, Stephens, Turnbull, Targett, Isgrove, Cork, Chambers, McQueen (Curtis 80), Sinclair, Hoskins. Subs (not used): Britt, Young, Sedi, Seager.