|Southampton 3 v 1 Sheffield United|
Barclays Premier League
Sunday, 26th July 2020 Kick-off 16:00
Saints V Sheffield United The Verdict
Monday, 27th Jul 2020 09:08
Saints finished the season with a flourish to leapfrog Everton into 11th place and only two points behind the visitors who ended in 9th, it was a case of "if only" for Saints and gives much hope and anticipation for next season.
In the end it was a comprehensive victory for Saints but they could easily have been three goals down at the break instead of just one, Alex McCarthy having to pull off a couple of very good saves to keep us in the game with Lundstram giving the Blades the lead on 26 minutes with our defence all at sea.
But the second half was different, Che Adams fired Saints in front on 50 minutes and from then on it was all Saints, 20 minutes later it was Adams again to put us in front and with 6 minutes left we were awarded a penalty, on another day Adams would have taken the ball for a go at his hat trick, but a goal for Ings would bring him only a goal short of Jamie Vardy and so he attempted to score a week after missing, he did so with aplomb but sadly it would be "if only" for Ings, if he had scored against Bournemouth with his spot kick then he would have been level with the Leicester man .
Indeed it is hard to mention Saints season without that Leicester game at St Mary's being mentioned, but Vardy got a at trick in that one including an injury time penalty, another "If Only"
But the season finished on a high with a fine all round performance in the second half, Che Adams was the star, having now broken his duck he can't stop scoring and showed why we signed him and he has forged a fine partnership with Danny Ings.
But there were other notable displays, Kyle Walker-Peters did not look like he would even return to St Mary's after the lockdown, Ralph Hasenhuttl playing him only once before the suspension of football, but another fine game from the right back and hopefully we wlll make the move permanent.
Will Smallbone coming on for the injured Stuart Armstrong on the half hour put in a decent shift and his tackle and toe poke put Adams through for a goal.
Nathan Redmond had an amazing run beating 4 players and put in a decent ball that sadly couldn't be forced home in the first half, he looked lively throughout and of course Danny Ings was well Danny Ings, always involved working tirelessly and unselfishly to create chances for himself and others, even though the temptation must have been there for him to shoot on sight from all ranges and angles.
The irony of us jumping above Everton for 11th place was not lost on me, four years ago after finishing 6th after a fine win on the final day we looked to be going places, but then in came Everton to poach Ronald Koeman after repeated re buffs, back then it was they who were proclaiming through their owner that they were going to challenge for the champions League and overtake their near neighbours as they trampled us into the ground when they found Koeman's point where he would put money over morals, yet here we are 4 years later and we are above them again.
Al Saints fans should be looking to the future now though and not the past, things have changed at St Mary's and we have a squad with potential, with the acquisition of Kyle Walker-Peters permanently and at least one new central defender we could be a force to be reckoned with, certainly no one can complain that they aren't being entertained, our 51 goals makes us the joint 8th highest scorers and if Adams & Obafemi had been firing on all cylinders in the first half of the season we would have scored a lot more.
Add Djenepo and we have a potent attack, we just need to sort out the defence.
In the nine games since the restart we lost only once and that was when we gifted two goals to Arsenal, there is another if only if we had drawn that game we would not have changed our final league position , but we would have been only 1 point behind the Gunners who finished 8th.
Indeed add to that the gifted three points at home to Wolves when we were 2-0 up approaching the hour mark and we would have finished the season level with them.
That is how close this season was to being seen as something special, these two games are just the tip of the iceberg, I could list 10 more that we gave away soft goals that cost us dearly even after the break.
The 9 games since lockdown have seen us get 18 points, an average of 2 per game, before the break we were averaging 1.17, the improvement in the side is immense.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has to be thanked for this, he has stayed focused through a dark period and not been afraid to deal with issues in the squad, the most notable being the Pierre Emile Hojbjerg situation, he has created a team spirit second to none, some have said Chris Wilder should have been manager of the year, but Ralph had a far tougher task this season and we are only two points behind the Blades who are touted as having had a great season, this should tell us something and I think we will be a better squad next season for the experience.
So what was there not to like about this final day, our points ratio per game in a Premier League season has only been bettered three times out of 21 season's and is joint with Gordon Strachan's 2002/03 season.
The shoots of recovery are all around , we are back to doing things the Southampton way again, it is time to look towards the football and not the past.
Photo: Action Images
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