Sun, Nov

With Harry Redknapp watching from the side-lines at Staplewood last night Saints reserves’ 2-2 draw with Fulham was a chance for several first-team hopefuls to impress the new boss.

Eight of the starting XI have already featured in the Premiership and Chris Baird also came off the bench to stake his claim. Although Saints were held to a draw by the Londoners, there will have been plenty of food for thought for Redknapp.

After going behind, Dexter Blackstock blasted Saints back to level terms from the spot and then Kenwyne Jones bagged his first goal for the club with a well taken finish at the end of the first half. Jason Dodd turned in a commanding performance at centre-half for the first 45 minute and versatile defender Martin Cranie also caught the eye with a strong game at left-back despite playing out of position.

The only player who was not able to seize the chance to showcase his talents was Latvian international Marian Pahars who limped off after just 15 minutes, feeling the ankle problem that has plagued him over the past couple of seasons.

After the match, reserve team manager Stewart Henderson reflected: “It is a fresh start for everybody and it gave them an opportunity to impress the new manager.

“The thought before the game was to play as many players as possible that the manager could have a look at that might be knocking on the first team door and I am sure after the match he will have formed his own opinions.

“I thought we were a little bit unlucky in the first half. They scored against the run of play and the first thing that Paul Smith had to do really was pick the ball out of the back of the net from their penalty.

“But we deservedly got back into it and I think 2-1 at half time was a bit of justice and it could even have been 3-1.

“In the second half it was a bit more of a battle but I am a bit disappointed we didn’t win the game.”

Asked whether Pahars’ injury was serious, Henderson said he had left the field more as a precaution and described the incident as only a “minor set-back.”

He continued: “He felt quite a bit of discomfort after five or ten minutes or so which is disappointing for him because he has been training quite well and looking relatively sharp over the past couple of weeks.

“It is a setback for him but hopefully nothing too serious. He obviously felt that it is not as it should be and so took the precaution of coming off early.”

But there was also good news in the form of a first goal in a Saints shirt for Trinidad international Kenwyne Jones. Henderson smiled: “I’m delighted for him that he has scored a goal now because I think his performances have merited that but in terms of his best position he is still a difficult one!

“In the last game away at Leicester he played centre half for me and did very well but prior to that he had two or three games up front and looked menacing. He has also played in midfield for me as well and looked comfortable so we seem to have an all purpose player on our hands but I think for the time being we will persevere with him up front.

“It was a good finish last night, he has got terrific spring and heads the ball well which is an asset and one thing he hasn’t shown us yet which he has got in his armoury is a real powerful shot.

“I thought both him and Dexter were a handful and I am sure their two centre halves will feel as though they have been in a real game after that.”

As he summed up, Henderson also highlighted the energetic performance of second year scholar Martin Cranie. He added: “I rate Martin very highly. I think he is a quality player and I thought he slotted in at left back very well, even if he probably would be more comfortable on the right hand side.

“There was one game when he played against Arsenal recently when I thought he just sat back a little bit so I have been encouraging him to get forwards a bit more and he did that against Fulham.

“He can play when he gets in the final third, he is a good footballer, he can get crosses in, he has got the ability to get past people and he has got pace so he just needed to utilize that as much as possible.”