Saturday 15 December 2018

Southampton must be brave, says frustrated boss Mark Hughes

The Saints were held to a goalless draw by Burnley.

Mark Hughes was frustrated by Southampton’s draw (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Mark Hughes was frustrated by Southampton’s draw (Andrew Matthews/PA)

By Nick Purewal, Press Association Sport

Mark Hughes has challenged Southampton to show more bravery in the wake of his side’s goalless Premier League draw against Burnley.

Boss Hughes admitted he booted a water bottle along the St Mary’s Stadium touchline to vent his frustration over Saints’ speculative opening 50 minutes on Sunday.

Hughes read his side the riot act at half-time and gave his starting XI five minutes to shape up – and when they had not, he changed personnel and tactics.

New boys Danny Ings and Mohamed Elyounoussi added guile and impetus off the bench, but still no goals, leaving manager Hughes demanding a more gung-ho approach.

Asked about kicking away the water bottle, Hughes joked: “I thought it was a good pass myself!

“It was a little bit of frustration because I see these players every day and I know the quality they have in close quarters.

“But I don’t think we were brave enough early on.

“I thought we didn’t really get the intensity I’d asked for at the beginning of the game.

“Maybe that was apprehension at the beginning of the new season, maybe we were erring on the side of safety.

“I left it five minutes into the second half, after speaking to them and saying we needed to be on the front foot more.

“That didn’t change, so then I made personnel changes. And I thought we were on top for the rest of the second half.

“I’m not rigid to stick to one formation or way of playing. It’s always better to have the ability to change.

“You’ve got to have the nous, understand what’s happening and make changes to turn it your way.

“We do work on different formations in training. The fact we were able to get a foothold so quickly after making the change is credit to the players.”

Former Saints midfielder Jack Cork went closest to breaking the deadlock, coolly slotting home early on only to be judged offside in a contentious call.

Burnley boss Sean Dyche refused to criticise the decision, however, remaining phlegmatic in taking a point back north.

Asked for his views on the disallowed goal, Dyche replied: “It’s very tight. I don’t know what VAR would make of that, and I’m a big fan of that.

“I don’t really know. I’m not crying over that, but you just hope that over the course of the season you get one back.”

The Clarets have travelled almost 5,000 miles in four days encompassing goalless draws at Europa League foes Istanbul Basaksehir and now Southampton.

Dyche hailed his players’ spirit in grafting hard across the two contests, between which he only made four changes to his starting line-up.

“I thought today their work ethic and desire was outstanding,” said Dyche. “A good mixed bag really, some very good football, controlled, caused trouble.

“And the last 20 minutes when they changed shape, they came back into it.

“It’s very difficult to dominate a whole game in the Premier League. I expect our players to get on with it, because they are professional footballers, very fit, with support systems we never had.

“Travelling makes it difficult, and that’s the difference to be fair. But they are working hard.”

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