Written by Audenshaw Cherry
Following a five-hour rail trip from a very rainy Manchester via Andover, Salisbury and Romsey we arrived in sunny but windy Southampton. The team news suggested that we would start with three at the back and, surprisingly, that the Wee Man was on the bench. Only learned later that he had a strain or two and was being rested rather than dropped.
Unfortunately, someone had forgotten to tell our defence what formation they were meant to play and for the first 20 minutes, it was worse than schoolboy/schoolgirl football. We were all over the place. Time after time Southampton pushed for a goal and somehow for 12 minutes, we managed to hold out. However on 12 minutes after giving the ball away yet again the Cherries were punished when the ‘in-form Long’ put the home team ahead, by stroking the ball through Ake’s legs, getting a slight deflection, and settling in the corner of the net. It could only get better, surely? But no the game continued in the same fashion.
Then suddenly on 20 minutes, King broke at speed with the ball into home team half passed it to Wilson who squared to the onrushing Gosling for his second goal in two away games. As he was scoring Eddie was making a change in formation, back to four at the back, and his first substitution. Mepham, who was not having his best game, was sacrificed for the ailing Fraser. Soon after the ‘in-form Long’ managed to miss an open net from almost six inches by hitting the outside of the post.
The game changed from that moment with the ‘Jolly Green Giants’ starting to assert themselves on a tiring home team, who pressed high up until that point. With Fraser inserting more speed up front and following some great pressure Bournemouth took the lead as Wilson followed up a blistering shot from Brooks, which Gunn could not hold on to. For the rest of the half, the away side pressed for a third but had to be content with a one-shot lead at the break
HT Southampton 1 AFCB 2
The second half started in much the same way as the first with the Saints pressing high and putting the Cherries under pressure. At this point, it should be said that the wind was helping neither team and there were a number of misplaced passes and headers on both sides.
With ten minutes of the second half gone Brooks was dispossessed in the midfield, was he fouled? – he certainly stayed down on the ground. The ball made its way to Ward-Prowse who hit a very well placed shot into the corner of the net. The game was quite even for the next ten minutes until a cross was thrown over, into the Cherries’ penalty area, and Targett met it at the back post to nod it past Boruc.
Strangely, well it was strange to me, the home team then settled back and wasted as much time as possible to ensure they kept their lead and their place in the Premier League. However, the plan did not work in its entirety as they forgot to take notice of the Fraser/Wilson alliance. With four minutes left on the clock, the ball fell to the Wee Man on the left. He attacked the defence and swung a low cross over to Wilson, who slid in the equaliser.
And still it wasn’t over and some strange things were still about to happen. Firstly, Wilson could have and, probably, should have tied up the points with a late chance. When one on one with Gunn he failed to capitalise and the keeper made an accomplished save. With time running out Southampton made a late change, bringing on Austin, to play up front. A chance for a late winner perhaps? But no!! Each time he got the ball he headed for the corner flag. At the end of the game, after most of the home fans had left the Southampton team gathered in the middle of the field to celebrate, ecstatically, their escape from relegation. (Their Great Escape Season, perhaps?)
FT Southampton 3 AFCB 3
Probably a fair result, in the end, but we so could have nicked with the late Wilson chance. After the first ten minutes, it could have a clear win for the home team, our defence was such a shambles. It didn’t look like any of the defenders understood what they were supposed to do with five at the back. Eddie made a good and brave decision to make the tactical change and Mepham was the obvious choice. The wind definitely played a part but our passing was once again, throughout the game, poor and wasteful. A point won rather than two lost in my opinion. Nice to get something from St Mary’s at long last.
Boruc – 7 – He made a couple of important blocks and, in my opinion, could not be faulted for any of the goals.
Clyne – 7 – on the whole, I thought he had a good game.
Mepham – 4 – Withdrawn early, and rightly so. Some of his passing was suicidal and he clearly didn’t know what his role was.
Cook – 6 – Not at his best, made a number of poor passes but led the team well once we got into it.
Simpson – 7 – For a young lad with little experience I thought he showed some maturity and made some excellent challenges.
Ake – 6 – Like most of the defence early on, didn’t really understand the system. When moved into midfield he looked out of his depth. I much prefer in the centre at the back.
Brooks – 7 – Although still not quite back to his best he provided some telling passing and his shot for our second goal was brilliant. Was the victim of a number of assaults.
Gosling – 7 – Another tireless effort from the midfield dynamo. I know he is not a fan favourite but he always gives his all. And another goal, which the keeper missed, somehow.
Lerma – 8 – A star. He made a number of important challenges throughout the game. With Ake and Fraser, he must be first on the team sheet. A very valuable player for the team. I can honestly see Man City coming for him when Fernandinho goes.
King – 7 – Ran and ran all day, not always to an end result but was the leader of the pack for our first goal.
Wilson – 8 – Coulda, shoulda have scored a hat-trick but the goal machine delivered again, in front of the England manager.
Fraser – 8 – For someone carrying an injury he certainly helped to change the game and another assist. His pace was sorely missed early on. If he does go in the summer he will be a BIG loss. He was also carved up a number of times.
MOTM: I could choose any one of three but I think it should go to an unsung hero. JEFFERSON LERMA Another great game both challenging and pushing forward. An excellent acquisition.
Neil Dawson wrote…
It’s as an odd game. Less of a game of two halves and more a game of six sixths as the pendulum kept swinging.
So disappointed with the set up at the beginning, no prep on the training ground apparently and the players literally tearing strips off each other on the pitch and pointing frantically trying to work out what they should be doing. A strange system on paper and on grass as it turns out. Credit to Eddie for changing it so soon but it should never have darkened our door in the first place.
The other thing it would be interesting to hear others views on is Solanke. Personally, think playing behind the front two chasing a game is not getting the best out of him he needs to be one of the front two of on the pitch. Ibe or Mousset have better feet and vision for the number ten role he has had to fulfil. – Join the conversation, click here.