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Saints V Tottenham Hotspur The Verdict
Sunday, 10th Mar 2019 11:13

At 4pm there was an air of despondency around St Mary's less than an hour later and there was an outbreak of optimism and happiness after a game of two halves and a referee.

Let's start with the negatives, Saints were defensively awful in the first half, early on Harry Kane pulled off Yoshida and left him floundering and volleyed wide, the danger signs were there but we ignored them, the back three just couldn't seem to mark their players and kept getting left for dead.

That was best illustrated on the Spurs goal when Vestergaard appeared to be completely aware of Harry Kane and we left him completely unmarked for an easy goal.

This highlighted the need for a leader in the back four, but despite the fact that we were all at see, we hung on in there desperately and got into the break with only that soft goal separating the sides.

Two changes at half time swung the game, Saints came out with Long & Josh Sims offering the pace to take the game to Spurs and unhinge them, however we still had to defend and put ourselves into the position to win the game.

With 15 minutes to go though it looked like Saints might be frustrated, we had missed a couple of chances and it seemed that referee Kevin Friend was doing everything bar putting in a couple of tackles himself to ensure Spurs won the game.

But then came the ending to a game that we have waited all season for, a Saints comeback to win a game, it was a calamitous goal from a Spurs perspective, two defenders attempted to clear but didn't, a third strangely opted to step over it not realising that Yan Vallery was behind him, the Saints man scuffed his shot that confused Lloris and we were on equal terms.

Referee Kevin was no Friend of Saints, when Josh Sims was kicked in the head just inside the penalty area it was obvious to everyone in the ground that it should be a penalty, it wasn't a hard decision in that you can't raise your foot that high it is dangerous play, it should have been simple for Kevin Friend if he knew the rules.

It appears he didn't and more to that pint he was making them up as he went along, twice the ball was put out for a throw in and twice Friend restarted the game with a drop ball not a throw in, this was somewhat bizarre.

Saints winner came in equally bizarre circumstances, the cross for Stuart Armstrong was inch perfect, he was completely through on goal when he was fouled, Kevin Friend didn't disagree with that, but there was no red card, it was a goal scoring opportunity just as much as if it was a through ball rather than a cross, yet the official could not fatho that.

But cue James Ward Prowse who is suddenly showing the promise that he always had but could never quite bring to the fore and he repeated his free kick from a week earlier at Old Trafford to give Saints the lead.

There was now only 9 minutes to see out the game and the crowd were up for it and so was the team, but the feeling was the ref might have the biggest say, you felt that not only would he give Spurs a penalty but he would take it himself such was his inept display.

But Saints were not going to give it away and they never really looked like letting in yet another late late goal, there was however one more bit of drama left when Sissoko raked his studs down the back of Nathan Redmond's calf that provoked a spate of handbags at dawn, Redmond did little wrong even when the Spurs man thrust his forehead into Redmond's face only right in front of the referee, red card surely but it was just a yellow card for both.

Saints fans prepared for a lengthy period of extra time, this skirmish took 2 minutes to settle , add four substitutions and a couple of lengthy stoppages for injuries to Shane Long and you could reasonably have expected 6 minutes of injury time possibly 7, yet the clueless ref for the only time in the game gave something to Saints, perhaps he meant to give 14 minutes, but it was only 4.

This was the a game no one expected Saints to win, Cardiff must have thought they were guaranteed to pull out of the relegation zone when they beat West Ham, but this result must have deflated them big time.

It was a game that highlighted the fact that we are weak at the back and still need a striker, but it also highlighted the spirit that Ralph Hasenhuttl has injected in this team, sadly we are always going to ship goals at the back, ultimately there is a weakness there, but there are games we can get away with it and this was one of them.

It also highlighted that we are not far off being a good side under the Austrian manager, we survive this season and there is a bright future, a couple of decent signings and we can compete again.

But in the meantime we have taken a big step towards safety, we have shown that we can beat the big sides and we look very different from the team of a year ago or even four months ago.

It is hard to pick a man of the match, James Ward Prowse is an obvious choice, but everyone played there part and that is the great thing whatever our shortcomings we are a team again, we play for each other and have spirit and that will cound a lot in the final 8 games of the season.

Outside St Mary's it was an outbreak of happiness and more to the point optimism, for those who were at the game the faith is returning, the hope is back, this needs to continue, we have three weeks to get everyone fit including Danny Ings and Shane Long who contributed greatly to helping swing the game in our favour before he went off.

The season is starting to swing in Saints favour, we are good enough to pull clear of the dropzone, we just need more of the support that emerged in the second half at St Mary's on Saturday, it was great to see the ground rocking again.

Photo: Action Images

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Ripleys_revenge added 11:27 - Mar 10
Thanks nick, excellent write up.

As has been written the subs made a huge impact yesterday, and as excellent as sims was, I’d like to recognise Shane longs input to the team. One HORRIFIC header aside, that’s the Shane log saints fans enjoy watching - putting himself about, disrupting players. Put a great ball in for Armstrong before he was fouled by walker peters too.

I don’t think anyone expects long to out-skill players or devastate defenders with an exemplary touch but when he plays like he did yesterday he can definitely contribute to
Our team. Haven’t seen it enough this season from him, but well done yesterday Longy!

davidargyll added 11:43 - Mar 10
What a game. The good the bad and the ugly would best describe it.
But we had luck, we showed resilience and my god RH must have given them one helluva half time talk to get them playing like they did in H2
Now all I want is some, if not all, the doomsayers on here to start praising the team ESPECIALLY JWP who was brilliant. So pur-lease,Let’s stop thinikng that the players are not good enough. Yesterday showed that they really are.
It is wholly unrealistic to expect any team to play brilliantly week in week out - after all Spurs themselves showed how top teams don’t turn it on all the time and now and then completely unexpectedly cock it up. And we are no different. But...
Yesterday, and indeed last week against Man U, we showed to the world that what we do have now is real team spirit. And when you have that you can achieve buckets.
I sense we have turned the corner...and i for one am smiling...a lot!!!

Dobbin60 added 12:53 - Mar 10
We go on about players making the same mistakes again and again but I hope the manager learns from his. Recent home games the formation and set up have been wrong. Struggled for a draw against palace, lost to Cardiff, got away with it against a poor Fulham side and the first half yesterday. How we played in the second half is how we should start games especially at home with the emphasis on attack and getting the ball forward quickly.

helpineedsomebody added 13:07 - Mar 10
1 top 4 manager
2 top 8 midfield perhaps top 6 if we can get lemina back
3 back 3 very iffy all got sucked towards the ball left harry cane with yards of space in the 6 yard box
4 if we had a goal scoring centre forward it takes all the pressure off the team
5 gunn has come in & has given the team huge confidence at the back if only we had a centre forward it would do the same thing
6 a 9 point game yesterday.
7 in the second half all the good work done by redmond/simms/armstrong / long wasted becouse we have no centre forward to be in that position & score
8 we have some good games coming up, we can win them if we play 2 upfront be positive please dont play 7 at the back we need wins not draws
9 if you look at cardiff/burnley brightons last 8 fixtures not easy
but well done saints made the weekend very enjoyable


SaintBrock added 13:19 - Mar 10
We've lost plenty that we should have won so we deserved our luck yesterday and so won one we should have lost. 2-0 at HT, and it would have been different game and result probably.

Great substitutions at HT by RH but surely he could have done better than put Austin on the pitch at the start? We really were playing with only 10 men in the first half. It is time to call it a day with dear old Chas, Ralph. Even if Sims isn't the complete answer yet, he's a bloody site more mobile and active in the game than the the block of granite that is C Austin!

SaintBrock added 13:25 - Mar 10
Ah! Nick so it was all Yoshida's fault in the first half, noting that you also failed to mention that Berdnarek & Vestergaard got pulley's all over the place by their attackers.

I guess you have a mindset about Maya that will never change now so why do I resent your negativity towards the guy so much? Your failure to note that we have started winning and looking like a winning team only since Maya Yoshida and Ryan Bertrand returned to regular first team action just shows how unbalanced your view is of this most loyal of players that we have on our books.

IanRC added 13:54 - Mar 10
Thought Sims was magnificent yesterday, trust Vertonghan will receive a post match red for one of the most reckless pieces of dangerous play I have seen. Doubt it though knowing the corruption in the FA. Hope the break doesn't dilute our enthusiasm and that Ralph finds a way to include Sims from the start. Hard to disagree that Yoshida hasn't been a very positive influence since returning but clearly work to be done on defence, can't lose strikers like that in the penalty area.

halftimeorange added 14:24 - Mar 10
I was thrilled by our comeback and Sims added some much needed accuracy to our passing so, he really should start next time rather than be a hopeful throw of the dice. Armstrong, too looked sharp. Happy as I am at this surprising turnaround, we were beneficiaries of Spurs rashly extravagant finishing and should have been buried by half time. At one stage in the first 45 I thought that it was only Bednarek and Gunn against the opposition as everyone else was consistently out of position or switched off. As for Kevin Friend....well, he needs retraining after the most one-sided display I've seen this season, an absolute disgrace to his profession.

KriSaint added 14:48 - Mar 10
I´ll be back with a few lines about the verdict of this game, but first:
I seriously need the phone number/e-mail adress of Kevin Friend. Please help me get it, if You can.
Enough is enough.

landerwal added 15:27 - Mar 10
Spurs are third (at this moment) in the Premiership and playing in the Champions League. They are a top side and our defence only gave away one goal in the first half which was a debatable offside, yet they are criticised for being pulled apart. Spurs played very well and a lot of other teams would have been two or three down by half time. From my vantage point in the Kingsland the whole team put in an almighty effort in front of goal and laid the foundation for Saints to make the changes at half time and go on to win. That said, it was a great display by Saints , the only downside being our lack of a class centre forward, with the two same midfielders as last Saturday scoring the goals. Keep Sims in the team as Austin is sadly a shadow of the player he once was. Let us hope that we do not have that apology for a referee again this season and that next season he is only allotted to officiate in a Sunday League, though I would expect him to struggle at that standard.

underweststand added 16:37 - Mar 10
In bygone years, we 've struggled to find a good dead ball specialist (exception being the likes of Le Tiss and Lambert), but at last JWP has found a free-er role with licence to roam around (stats.showed he covered over 11 km), more than anyone else yesterday.
He may never become another Beckham, but studying his style has done him no harm.

Successive managers failed to find a role for players like Josh Sims were simply ignored. Having seen Sims turning give great performances for U18/U23's - it's fair to say that he deserved his chance to shine, and he may become the "next Shane Long".

Otherwise the game was a sort of replay of the Man Utd game from the Referees viewpoint. Kane's goal was borderline offside (depending on who you read). Spurs might have had 2 or even 3 red cards had they not still been in contention for a Euro place.

If there are any refs who are " Saints friendly"... let's hope we get them in some of our remaining games, certainly this one was no Friend to us.


KriSaint added 16:50 - Mar 10
12 Saints passes -> Saints throw in -> 7 Saints passes -> Saints throw in - 7 Saints passes - GOAL (1-1).
26 passes within the team IN A ROW before scoring against no. 3 in the league.
This tells me, that we are going in the right direction.
Now a 3 weeks international break where - maybe - JWP/Angus Gunn/Nathan Redmond will be training with the England national team.
You never know. Southgate knows and likes ALL 3 OF THEM.

Consigliere added 17:09 - Mar 10
Good article and some great comments as always but I have a slightly different take on some of this:

1. The referee was awful as everyone knows but I can't agree that he was biased, he was awful for both sides. There were several throw-in decisions and free kicks that obviously ought to have gone the other way and particularly in the first half, he stopped play several times when Spurs would have been better off with the advantage, thus allowing us to re-group and defend.

2. I was right in line with Kane when he scored his goal and if he was offside it could only have been by the minutest amount. Personally, I thought that he was onside, and I couldn't criticise the linesman for that decision. It was also a goal that had been coming for a long time and no-one could have been surprised by it.

3. It's true that we weren't playing well in the first half but we weren't playing badly either. Let's be realistic, the table doesn't lie, we were playing a much better team and we did well to hold them to only one nil. I note the usual Yoshida criticism in the article (and fair enough he nearly put the ball in the back of his own net though he had to intercept the cross) but we are a much better team with him playing than not and I thought the defence did pretty well considering the waves of attack coming their way. Our problem was in attack not defence, we were playing too far back and inevitably, the defence became tired after relentless Spurs attacking and began to make mistakes.

4. Sims, Long and Armstrong changed everything in the second half not because they are much better than those they replaced (though they are certainly quicker) but because they had been instructed (or were prepared) to take the fight to the opposition. I have been saying until I am blue in the face that attack is usually the most effective form of defence and so it proved yesterday. Valery's goal was scruffy and a bit fortunate but the reason he was able to take his chance was because of the build up work in getting the ball into that area in the first place. JWP's (brilliant) free kick depended on the same thing. I know you can't afford to over-commit yourself against teams like Spurs but it you show them too much respect you will never beat them. In football as in life the only error worse than under-estimating your opponent is over-estimating him.

5. We aren't out of the woods yet, as the manager said in his post-match interviews. It felt like a cup final but we must stay grounded in reality. Very nice touch to come onto the field with all the players afterwards though, this bloke is definitely a keeper!

saintjf added 17:24 - Mar 10
Great report on the game. We were so lucky in the first half with Kanes poor finishing. Our defence was hopeless. Agree with halftimeorange on that one 100%. We have to improve our centre backs. Bednarek is up to it and Vestergaard is improving but we need a leader. Second half was so much better. Best result for Saints in a very long time and could well be hugely significant turning point provided we do not see a repeat of the first half defending. With Burnley losing we remain above them.....

ElSanto added 17:29 - Mar 10
early on Harry Kane pulled off Yoshida and left him floundering - yeeeoooooooow

SaintBrock added 18:01 - Mar 10
Levy was prominent yesterday and Pochettino was almost de-mob happy in his presser. Hope two and two don't make seven and envious glances were being directed at Mr Ralph as the right replacement for the WHL's dodgy dealers.

ItchenNorth added 18:11 - Mar 10
The ref was awful, but my first reaction to the penalty shout was; no, you're not going to get those. Vertonghen was just clearing the ball by hooking over his should, so contact was accidental for me.

Walker-Peters should have been sent off for tripping Armstrong up when through on goal and Sissoko was lucky not to see red.

Gunn made some good saves to keep us in the game, which must not be underestimated as it keeps us in the game.

Hasenhuttl was positive in making two substitutions at half time and changing the formation. We now had pace right across the from three. Sims was excellent.

JWP is now a real contender for Player of the Season.

The atmosphere was rocking in the last 25 mins.

I love a good relegation fight !

saintmark1976 added 18:27 - Mar 10
Every team's supporters believe that the ref is against them, it's all part of the game. However I'm starting to wonder if where the top six teams are concerned there may be more to it than meets the eye. Yesterday Mr Friend was truly shockingly awful and the guy who officiated our match last week was little better. Is there something going on unbeknown to fans that influences these guys or are they just continually having regular "bad days at the office"?


SanMarco added 18:54 - Mar 10
What a pleasure that result was - I am still smiling. Maybe we were lucky not to be 2 or 3 down at half-time but I don't think we have been over-blessed with luck lately so about time I say.

The either/or debate about whether our defence or attack is the biggest problem is best solved by saying that the problem in defence is lack of quality and the problem in attack is scarcity. Ings and Austin are sick notes and the others don't score (even though they do offer other qualities). I salute our midfield. If attack and defence were as good as our midfield we would be pushing for Europe.

As it is, let's pray that our defenders and midfielders keep scoring...

Whiteknight added 19:58 - Mar 10
Good report. Sims, Long and Armstrong were a breath of fresh air when they all came on. A couple of points from me:

1) At half time I was thinking we deserve to go down - not because of the team but because our support was so terrible! At full time, I was thinking Spurs deserve to win nothing....because their support was so terrible once Saints fought our way back into the game! Reinforced by the vlog!
2) I agree with Consigliere that Kevin Friend was incompetent - he gave many bad decisions against both teams. However, if he were simply incompetent you would expect the decisions to even themselves out - they did not. He got three big ones wrong - Vertongen's kick to Sims' head, Walker-Peters pulling down Armstrong and the worst of all - Sissoko's multiple fouls against Redmond in the space of a few seconds. Add to this, his friendly attitude towards Spurs players and you can only come to one conclusion - bias. Now bias can be conscious or unconscious. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it is unconscious but frankly he should never be allowed to referee a Saints game again.
3) Alleged anti-semitic chanting. I was in the Itchen and didn't hear any but clearly we have some idiot fans.... but no more than Birmingham, Arsenal or any other club! I don't like other fans dobbing them in but the stewards need to be aware of this sort of thing and act accordingly.

Anyway - loved the second half yesterday. Hopefully Saints will carry on playing like that and then re-build in the summer.

BoondockSaint added 21:31 - Mar 10
Three important points (even more important after yesterday's results!)

JWP now has the right Jedi Master!

ThereIn76 added 22:09 - Mar 10
Josh Sims achieves more in half a match than Elyounoussi in more than half a season

lemmsy added 08:36 - Mar 11
Fantastic result that made the weekend, stayed in the fane in the first half ( the trendy word is game management) and then really got at them and deserved something from the second.
One thing Nick although the referee was awful I’m pretty sure he doesn’t decide on how much added time and somebody commented on Shane longs cross for the winning free kick, he was off before both goals !

saintstowin added 09:02 - Mar 11
What a win! One bit of poor officiating that helped us was placing JWP's freekick 5+ yards nearer the goal from where the trip took place! As Ralph says being above the line, no matter how slight the advantage, makes such a difference.

perazi added 09:59 - Mar 11
Sims turned the game on its head with his pace, movement and incisive touches. Make no mistake he put Spurs back on their heels and lifted Saints by taking pressure off the midfield and CBs. Criticism of Yoshida is ridiculous and wide of the mark. The whole side was dazzled off the park in the first half by a dazzling Spurs display - to single one player out is poor and exposes the writers bias. Great free kick from Ward-Prowse, he has improved , but the rest of his game is not at the level of his dead ball skill. Sensational result - great comeback

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