|Leeds United 3 v 0 Southampton|
Barclays Premier League
Tuesday, 23rd February 2021 Kick-off 18:00
Southampton At Leeds United The Preview
Tuesday, 23rd Feb 2021 11:50
Saints travel up to Elland Road hoping to win a Premier League game for the first time in 8 outings, once again we have injury issues, but then again so do Leeds, can Saints win and leapfrog the home side and back up to 12th in the table.
The winless run has been a worry, but unlike some of our winless runs in the past there are mitigating circumstances, when Saints lost 8 of their first 11 Premier League fixtures, winning only one and drawing 2 of the other 3, that was a worry as we weren't in an injury crisis, this was our full first team squad failing badly to adapt to the Premier League.
But this crisis is different, we have so many injuries and not just in general but in key areas.
But we have turned a corner, we have players back from injury and the emergence of Mohammed Salisu is finally an addition to the squad as in Minamino who has only joined in the last three weeks.
So although the injury crisis is still critical. it has eased and that showed against Chelsea where although we were understandably on the back foot, we remained solid and held our shape and deserved a draw.
Now is the time to start to kick on with confidence, the latest stat being banded about is the one that says we have lost the dropped the most points from winning positions, of course this is not a great stat, but its a better one than just losing games as it shows we have the ability to score.
But there is a reason for this and of late it is due to the fact that we have no options off the bench at the moment , we run ourselves into the ground and then have no one we can bring on for fresh legs.
Back in the tail end of last year, we did have options, Ibrahima Diallo for example, but we haven't had that of late.
It has been a bad run, but the Manchester United game was the only one where we were actually poor, but even that had mitigating circumstances with a squad down to the bare bones as well as two sending offs and poor Var decisions not affecting the score but certainly the result.
We go to Leeds tonight still five men down, but now Ralph does have some options to change things as he did on Saturday against Chelsea.
The first question though is does he keep the formation against Chelsea or does he make a few changes.
It will be interesting to see what he does at the back, will he keep the back three and if so does he swap Moussa Djenepo for Stuart Armstrong or will be revert to a back four with Jan Bednarek playing as a right back, again he has to choose if Armstrong comes back to the side and who he replaces.
In many respects Leeds are a team that will suit us, they attack in numbers and are vulnerable on the break.
They concede goals at an alarming rate and only West Brom have conceded more.
Our goals against column isn't great, but take out that United game and we are in the top half of Premier League defences, so we are a better defence than our goals against column suggests.
The trick will be like the Chelsea game, we have to deal with them coming at us in waves, but unlike Saturday when we get the ball we will have the chance to use it more and catch them on the back foot,
So there is plenty of things to be confident about going into this fixture and we are stronger than we were a month ago with the arrival o Minamino and the emergence of Salisu.
But the main issue will be that conceding second half goals problem, we are going to have to work hard in midfield and in the centre we have no one who could replace either JWP or Romeu as they tire in the later stages.
Ralph will have to urge his troops on and say one big effort and then we have 6 days off and that is a rare event these days.
Some fans have been worrying about relegation, we are far from that position at the moment, we should be looking upwards, personally I am not bothered about League position, there is a log jam, I want to see us reach Wembley firstly in the semi and hopefully in the final, yes it won't be the occasion that we would hope for, but the record books will not record that, If we are to win a trophy I would gladly give up supporters being there for the chance to do it.
But firstly we have to take every game as it comes, there are 14 games left and in the league we need to win 2 of them and that along with a couple of draws would guarantee safety , but we do want better than that and a win against Leeds would be the first step back to winning ways.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #48 by wessex_exile
“And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain…regrets, we’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention”. Not quite right Paul Anka, probably more than a few, but otherwise a fair assessment of where the U’s are today. It’ll be interesting to see how we perform with the relegation monkey finally off their back – I’m not expecting miracles, particularly with Tranmere needing at least a point to guarantee making the play-offs, but they’ll certainly be more nervous than we will be, so can we make that count? This will be my last blog of the season, and not yet sure what I may or may not do for next season, but suggestions are always welcome.
Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
Here we are, at the penultimate game of the season, and our last game in front of the cardboard U’s faithful at the JobServe. It has been a long, difficult, and definitely strange season, which frankly I’ll be glad to see the back of. That’ll we’ll be here again in August is definitely going to be something to celebrate, but I suspect we’re facing a summer of significant rebuilding both on the pitch, and possibly off it too. I won’t be the only one, but the biggest oddity for me has been being able to watch every single game – not always easy viewing, but something I’ve never done before, and probably never will again. But it doesn’t really make up for not being there in person, the long train journey away-days, meeting fellow U’s and other supporters, and of course sharing a beer or three. Fingers-crossed we can return to the terraces in 2021/22.
Letters from Wiltshire #46 by wessex_exile
That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.
Letters from Wiltshire #45 by wessex_exile
Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
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