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Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 7th March 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Saints Make A Return To Action
Saturday, 13th Jun 2020 07:47
With a week to go before their first game in the Premier League Saints have made a return to action with a friendly against Bristol City.
Saints met Championship side Bristol City in a behind-closed-doors friendly at St Mary's Stadium on Friday afternoon, which was split into three 45 minute periods although this was not completely a game of three thirds with the side that started the first 45 mainly starting the 2nd.
The game got off to a great start for Saints with Michael Obafemi bursting forward to close down the visitors keeper, Obafemi wasbeaten to the ball but as it ran free Stuart Armstrong appeared and slotted it into an empty net to leave the keeper red faced.
It was Armstrong again six minutes later after good work from Will Smallbone to double the lead.
But Saints showed that they still need to tighten up at the back with some poor defending and a failure to clear the ball meaning that the Robins pulled one back on 14 minutes.
This should have sent warning to Saints and City nearly scored again on 20 minutes with Alex McCarthy getting caught off guard although City couldn't finish, but they did a few minutes later when they burst through and pulled the ball back for Callum O'Dowda to equalise in what had been a frantic opening to the game.
A period of relative calm ensued but that changed on 41 minutes when Saints pressed high up the pitch and prevented City from clearing their lines and Danny Ings put Saints back in front and this was the score at "first third" time.
Saints team for this period had been with the only change at the break being Yan Valery for Stuart Armstrong.
McCarthy (GK), Danso, Vestergaard, Bertrand, Højbjerg, Ward-Prowse, Smallbone, Armstrong, Redmond, Ings, Obafemi.
In the early period of the second third Saints had several chances to extend their lead and could easily have added three goals but for some good goalkeeping stout defending and poor finishing.
As the second period moved on Ralph Hasenhuttl made some wholesale changes with Jack Stephens, Jan Bednarek, Jake Vokins, Kyle Walker-Peters, Oriol Romeu, Sofiane Boufal, Ché Adams and Nathan Tella join McCarthy, Valery and Højbjerg to complete the Saints XI.
Understandably Ralph chose not to involve Moussa Djenepo who will be suspended for the first three games of the re started season.
The games was understandably scrappy for the final part of the second third.
At the start of the third Angus Gunn and and Alex Jankewitz replaced McCarthy and Højbjerg and te visitors pushed and Gunn needed to be in his best form to keep Saints in the lead twice in the early stages the second being a penalty stop after a fould from Romeu.
But the game would end with no further goals other than those scored in the first 41 minutes and Ralph hasenhuttl would have had some food for thought ready for the restart.
He would have again seen the same mistakes at the back and would also feel that in front of goal we are still failing to finish as many chances as we should.
But these are early days and he would be satisfied with a good workout for his side and it will have areas he now can concentrate on as Saints aim to start the season with a bang and ensure that all nagging worries about relegation can be banished in the early games.
Photo: Action Images
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