|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 #35 by wessex_exile
As many were predicting, time finally ran out for Steve Ball mid-week, after the U’s lost 2-1 at home to Exeter City. Although a considerable improvement in score-line compared to the 6-1 thrashing they handed out at St James Park earlier in the season, apart from the first 10-15 minutes and very brief glimpses throughout the remainder of the game, it was a poor performance, leaving Robbie Cowling with no choice. After a brief interlude, Robbie named Wayne Brown as our new Interim Head Coach (that’s caretaker as far as I’m concerned), and after an even briefer interlude, Robbie and Wayne in a joint statement put to rest any lingering concerns about Wayne’s attitude to race. If Wayne can show the same sort of leadership on the training ground and in the dressing room as he used to show for the U’s on the pitch, I am certain he’s going to do very well in the job.
Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
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