Saints V Wolverhampton Wanderers The Verdict Sunday, 14th Apr 2019 09:52
Saints didn't play well but they still took the three points to give themselves an eight point advantage in the battle to stay out of the bottom three to send the fans home happy again.
Ironically a week ago Saints played well and lost 3-1 to Liverpool, against Wolves they struggled to find form and any sort of rhythm, it was the same scoreline again but this time for the home team.
Ralph Hasenhuttl made a couple of changes to the starting line up for the visit of Wolves with Oriol Romeu dropping to the bench along with Shane Long and Josh Sims and Danny Ings coming in.
The game could not have got off to a better start with Sims crossing low and hard with two minutes not yet on the clock and Nathan Redmond firing home from close range.
But this would not signal dominance for Saints and the game soon fell into a pattern that would continue for virtually the whole 90 minutes.
Wolves had most of the possession and individually Saints could not get it together, our passing was woeful and even the usually reliable James Ward Prowse and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg could not seem to be able to pass to a team mate even from short distance.
So it was no great shock when the away side drew level with a header from a corner just before the half hour mark, but the lead would be short lived and two minutes later Nathan Redmond restored the lead dinking the ball over the keeper after a sublime through ball from Danny Ings.
Although the pattern of the game didn't change Saints really should have put the game to bed with Josh Sims wasting two good chances, the first seeing him opting to shoot and firing wide when he perhaps wold have been better to have squared for Ings and the second when he put the ball wide when one on one on the keeper.
The 2-1 half time lead looked fragile and the second half started with the same pattern, Wolves dominating, however their problem was that for all the dominance they were struggling to create chances, Angus Gunn had to be on his toes and he did his job well, but there was never an occasion when you had to say he had kept us in it, this was testament to the way that although we were playing badly as individuals, as a team we dug in and made sure that we didn't give it away.
Ralph Hasenhuttl made a double change on the hour mark bringing on Long & Romeu for the two players that had replaced them and it soon paid dividends, Saints got their first corner of the game on 71 minutes and as Wolves struggled to clear credit must be given to Yoshida who firstly tried a spectacular overhead kick that was blocked and as the ball fell near him from the rebound he managed to divert it to Shane Long who flicked it home from close range.
That broke the spirit of Wolves and although they still dominated you fel that Saints spirit would see them through and it did.
Nathan Redmond would understandably be most people's man of the match, but interestingly on Match of the Day they highlighted the contribution Danny Ings made.
Ings didn't score and too often strikers are judged solely on the number of goals they score, certainly Shane Long would tell you that, but that is a very narrow way of ooking at things and against Wolves Ings was a major contributor in sending us into the break ahead and it should have been a bigger margin.
Firstly for the opened, Ings played a cushioned header down to start the move that led to the goal and then for the second it was his perfectly weighted through ball that sent Redmond clear to score.
He then laid the ball for Josh Sims and should have had a return ball for an easy chance and if his ball for Redmond was sublime, the one he put through for Sims second chance was better and he really deserved a second assist for that one.
Ings is a player who like Long offers more to the team even when he is not scoring in holding the ball up and creating space for others, Redmond deserves his MOM award, but if Josh Sims had firstly played the ball back to Ings to bury and then took his second chance himself, then it would probably have been Ings taking the award and not Redmond.
Match Gallery: 7 photos
This result along with Cardiff's defeat at Burnley and Brighton's at home to Bournemouth has put Saints on the cusp of safety and we should now be able to march forward and secure that with games to spare.
I said ahead of our trip to Brighton that we were starting a trio of games that would go a long way to deciding how our season would play out in the final knockings, I said then that 4 points would be a good total, we have managed 6 a very good return.
Mark Hughes averaged .64 points per game, Hasenhuttl maintains 1.5 per game after this victory, that is an average that over a season would usually see you in 7th/8th place, last season 57 points would have given us that position, the season before we would have fell a little short and would have been 8th, the position we actually finished, but we would have had 11 points more.
The hope going forward is that if Ralph Hasenhuttl can achieve this points ratio with a squad that has not only been ravaged by injury to key players at times, not to mention being short of quality in a couple of key positions, then what could he do with those problems solved next season.
But for now we look to the final five games and after this result we can look upwards and not over our shoulder, Ralph has set a target of 40 points for absolute safety, but we should look at perhaps what we can achieve in the final table.
Our first goal should of course be to avoid relegation, our second should be to improve on last season's placing and that means finishing above Brighton, then we should see if we can catch Bournemouth, they are five points clear, but if we can beat them at St Mary's then that would cut the gap to two and we have a game in hand.
I can see them getting 44 points, so that should be our target, if we both ended with that figure then by nature of the results we would have both achieved, we would probably have a better goal difference.
We were calling for the two same two subs long before Hutch made them. It was obvious from the start that Ings and Ward Prowse were not performing - in fairness WP should be played in a forward rather than defensive role - and that the wrong team selection had been made. A reminder that Hutch doesn't get everything right all the time. Ings just seemed to slow up our fast counter attacks.
At the end more relief and a slightly hollow feeling rather than the warm glow you should get from winning a football match.
Still, we are safe now and Hutch can focus on our summer rebuilding strategy.
Danny Ings didn't look 100% fit to me, often wandering aimlessly alone just behind the halfway line. I also thought JWP had a stinker and he, rather than Sims, should have been replaced. Sims might have made a couple of poor decisions but his pace constantly worried the Wolves defence. It's my opinion but, I thought that Saints did get it together in the second half and had Wolves under the cosh just before Shane scored (thanks to Yoshida's undying efforts). We followed that up with a couple of corners both of which nearly brought goals. I felt that Saints ran out comfortable winners having regained their grip on the game soon after the interval. It was a relatively clean game, too with card- happy referee, Jon Moss having little opportunity to spark any controversy. We are safe now. The bookies think so, too with Saints 200/1 against going down.
A very important 3 points. Ings is obviously a very good footballer but appears fragile and I worry every time I see him tackled. We looked like we wanted it more despite not being at our best. Redmond showed energy and commitment as well as ability yesterday. I use to moan as him last season....
a great win against a wolves side that have gone the whole season so far taking their chances and beating just about everyone, but yesterday they fell short thankfully for us because as much as you say about us and the top eight we are far from that good. having listened to the game can someone tell me is vestergaard actually worse than yoshida? He seems woeful, coyr
30% possession - less shots than the opposition - and in a home game. So what? Redmond took his chances and we got 3 points - Football's like that sometimes - ask MU.
Josh Sims - shortest man on pitch, has pace, does simple things well. Might have scored. Shane Long - fit and scored in successive games - what more can you ask for? Danny Ings - needs time to find his old (pre-injury form) ..at least he lasted 60 minutes. JWP - was in wrong role- is better playing further up the pitch. We missed Oriel Romeu.
(I rate) Yoshida more than Nick does. Is best in "sweeper" role, his experience is needed Bednarek seems to be there all the time, reliable and just gets better and better. (To 1970).....Vestergaard is good with the ball and wins headers, but he is a big man at 6'7" and like Crouch he looks clumsy and slow on the turn when pressed. Will improve, .or ought to... .for that fee. Certainly better than Hoedt was. Valery- not his best game yesterday, but made no bad mistakes - is still learning.
All in all - the sort of game where you don't play well - but still manage a win. Move on.
What a pleasure to watch a bold, strong attacking team with pace on the ball and individual skills to catch the eye - but that's enough about Wolves, who I thought were excellent throughout, especially their substitute Adama who took at least two and sometimes three of our players to stop him (can we sign him up please).
Saints were second best for long periods of the first half and kept making misplaced passes, but this has to be seen in the context of the opposition (see above). JWP in particular wasn't at the races, but the team spirit held them together and by the time Long came on to frighten the opposition with his pace and Romeu to hold the midfield tight, we looked likely to score on the break every time we had the ball.
That doesn't happen by accident and for me, the man of the match was the manager, for the organisation he has instilled into the team, the plan he devises for each game and the confidence he has put into our established players, especially Redmond, Sims and (yesterday) Shane Long.
We will do well to hold on to him because he is like getting several new players all at once.
I disagree with a fair amount of the above. Yes Wolves had more of the possession but seldom looked like scoring so I don't think that at any time did our second lead look fragile. Apart from one misplaced pass I thought that Holjberg had a great game, JWP did look out of place initially but the change in the second half favoured him. Long gained a reward for his tireless running (hopefully his detractors will start to lay off him a bit). Ings had a good supporting game although I agree he looked a little short of match fitness. His passing was however a great team contribution and the interplay between him, Redmond and Sims was a delight.
With regard to Sims I cant remember being as excited about a talent as I am about him for a long time. Yes he made a poor choice not to cross to Ings and he should have buried his chance but that will come with experience. However the way he runs at defenders and panics them into mistakes is a breath of fresh air, must have been paying attention to Shane Long. Redmond too of course is looking a better player each week and his finishing was first class yesterday.
With regards to the game itself, it seems RH had a great plan to sit back and hit them on the break and it worked well. Bear in mind if we had taken the chances we could have been at least 3-0 up. As for Adama, it was him that played Long onside for his goal and though he is fast his end product is often poor.
Interesting change in team selection and formation (3-4-3) with Simsy coming into the team in stead of Romeu. Great. Sims certainly made us more goal seeking and threatening, and a third attacker in the team a.o.t. gave Ings a better opportunity to show us how great he is in build up play and combining in the final part of the pitch getting a role similar to for instance Firminos role in Liverpools team. With an extra (quick) man like Sims in attack we have an extra station to give the ball to, which makes us much more dangerous on the counter. We had significantly more finishing than usually, which was nice. Tough luck for Romeu, sacrificed on the table of tactics, but I´m sure he accepts the value of tactical speculation and versatility. It feels great to have a manager who so obviously seems to do his job very well in every department of managing. I thought Stephens was quite decent as wing-back cover for Valery - a nice encouragement for him. He is a good guy and I wish him the best but i.m.o. his future with Saints is not as a central defender. Maybe he should have a chance as reserve/cover for a defensive midfield- or full back position.
Interesting to hear the perspective of people who watched the whole match. I saw only the last 25 minutes, tuning in between the double substitution and the 3rd goal. Over that time span Saints looked by far the better side, nearly scoring several more times (Yoshi and Bednarek having shots saved at point blank range and Vesters--to my amusement--dribbling around in their six-yard box) while Wolves, despite being two down, didn't really pose any sort of threat. Then when I watched highlights on youtube Wolves had but two--Jimenez forcing a save from Gunn in the first half and their goal, while we had ~10. I was surprised to hear that the first hour proceeded much differently than what I saw.
Also got to see the last half hour of Cardiff's loss to Wolves. Good lord, they're awful. Could barely get hold o fthe ball the whole time, despite being 1 down...to Burnley, of all teams. I'll never understand how they beat us twice. At least they're going down--they definitely deserve it.
I´d like to add a comment to something that happened after 9 minutes in the match. Wolves had a freekick from the right side halfway into our half, and the ball was crossed into the box where Dendoncker had a free header that almost went into our top right corner - being at least a YARD offside. NO flag went up, and NO reaction from referee Jonathan Moss. So - if this header had hit the target, it would have been another unbearable, illegal goal allowed against us (and another such allowed by THAT ref.). , and only VAR would have prevented it.... It was in this moment that it struck me that I - who have been very skeptical towards VAR - simply have to wellcome VAR with open arms next season. There is no other option. We need VAR to get rid of all aspects of stupid decisions from referees and lines men.
Think about all the dubious penalties we have seen through decades and centuries.. With VAR - Man. Utd. probably would have had maybe only half of the 12 penalties awarded them this far this season, and surely with VAR we would have had at least one penalty at Old Trafford a few weeks ago.
Next season, no doubt, will be FULL of VAR decisions, and at the end of the day, I think we will conclude that it was very beneficial for every soul involved in the game.
Lack of VAR must actually have almost cost poor Neil Warnock a heart attack both last weekend and this weekend. Did everybody see what Mike Dean did yesterday with the penalty to Cardiff vs Burnley at 1-0??? omg
As an American who regularly watches sports with video replay, I'd like to warn everyone about how poorly this can be used. Yes, it would undoubtedly mean the top six sides got "the rub of the green" less often, but it can really detract from the enjoyment of watching matches...unless you enjoy play being interrupted for 2-5 mins to watch a dozen or more replays of a particular 50-50 decision that could reasonably be given either way.
The most insidious aspect of video replay is dampening the eruption of enthusiasm/spirit/joy when your team scores a goal (or touchdown, in American football). Whereas once there was uniformly an automatic intense celebratory response, now the common reaction is, "Oh, that could be good...but will it stand?" And after everyone has settled back down emotionally while watching replay after replay, the goal/touchdown is confirmed, leading to a muted, sort-of, "OK--that's good" reaction. Imagine not being able to celebrate goals properly out of a constant fear that they'll be overturned. It detracts from the game.
And beware of mission creep...it has been the case in American sports that reviews have become more and more common over time, with the justification that it's better to get every decision correct (at the expense of watchibility).
In short, I'd rather put up with the occasional mistake than the effect explained in the above paragraph. I can respect other views, obviously, but know that video replay has its faults.
I'd like to reinterate the comment from Krisaint regarding the pitifully low quality of the officials and not just this match, throughout the season. We are surviving despite them but how is this incompetence allowed to continue? Absolutely scandalous and Cardiff should sue the EPL.
It's not really fair to blame officials for not getting every decision correct, after all 95% of what they do during a match is taken for granted and goes unnoticed. Sometimes critics bend to reflect on why they take exception to marginal decisions that go against Saints but rarely mention top either decisions that might go against the opposition during the same match.
The media only makes matters worse by over concentrating on minor incidents that often have no bearing on a match outcome and launch into a tirade of criticism of the officials.
Quite frankly people should accept that if the odd contested decision goes against them that might have led to a goal (might have!) and that might have been the only way to get anything out of the match, then the people to criticise are the players and manager for not being able to score goals or win by any other means.