|West Bromwich Albion 3 v 0 Southampton|
Barclays Premier League
Monday, 12th April 2021 Kick-off 18:00
Southampton V West Bromwich Albion The Preview
Monday, 12th Apr 2021 09:56
It's last chance saloon for Sam Allardyce and his boys, can Ralph Hasenhuttl ride into town and take advantage of the pressure that is now on this game for the Baggies and in doing so put an end to any lingering Saints worries.
Sam Allardyce is known for never having been relegated as a manager, but even he must be thinking that run is about to come to an end after Newcastle United beat Burnley yesterday to go 6 points clear of the drop zone and more worryingly for the Baggies to leave them now 11 points adrift of safety and with a 15 goal deficit between the two sides in goal difference.
That means that with just 8 games left West Brom must win 4 of them without Newcastle even picking up another point and it is hard to see them doing that when you look at their run in with trips to Arsenal, Leicester & Aston Villa and home games against Liverpool & West Ham.
So this is truly the last throw of the dice for Sam Allardyce this evening and he has to hope that he comes up with a double six and gets to throw the dice again next weekend.
He will hope that he will face a Saints side with one eye on next weekend's FA Cup semi final.
From a Saints perspective the only injury doubt for this evening was Kyle Walker Peters, but even that seems just to have been a Hasenhuttl smokescreen at his press conference as the former Spurs right back has since been pictured in full training.
But the Austrian manager does have a dilemma, after going the best part of three months with a squad decimated by injuries week in week out, he is now at a point where the only truly first choice squad member out injured is Oriol Romeu.
He has to consider whether to rest a player or two in key positions, certainly we have no back up for Kyle Walker Peters, nor real midfield defensive dynamo without Romeu's stand in Ibrahima Diallo and although in the case of Danny Ings we have other options, Ings is the talisman in the side.
So it must be tempting to Ralph to perhaps rest that trio, all of whom have suffered with injuries in the past few months, not just to protect them from injury, but to give his fringe players some game time and in doing so guarding against complacency and finding that his team might well have one eye on Wembley in six days time as Allardyce will hope.
I therefore would not be surprised to see a change of formation for this one with KWP rested a back three of Bednarek, Salisu & Vestergaard supported by wingbacks.
In the centre the manager seem to be keen to give Alexadre Jankewitz the chance to redeem himself after the Old Trafford misdemeanour and he could slot in for Diallo, up front playing the in form Che Adams would not be the worst option to keep Ings safe and warm on the bench.
From a Saints perspective the safety line is in sight, a win tis evening would leave us 13 points above Fulham occupying the 3rd from bottom spot, with the cottagers only having 6 games left now they would need to win 5 of them just to get above us without us even getting another point, mathematically they could overtake us if we hit that 39 points total, but truth is with the run in they have it is not going to happen.
But if Fulham's position is tight then West Brom's is dire, they had a win at Chelsea last weekend, but that was a freak result, they have only won 4 Premier League games all season and have not managed back to back wins at all, even when adding in cup competitions.
Big Sam has tightened them up and made them harder to beat, but their form has still not been great and they are a side who sit back defend in depth and then try and go on the break, a glimmer of hope for them is that this is not the type of side we usually prosper against.
But although they don't concede much these days, the Chelsea game aside they score even less and the last few months have been littered with 1-0 or 2-1 defeats.
They will come out all guns blazing this evening, they have to, our job is to calm them down weather the early storm and then break that confidence by scoring and if we can do that their heads will drop and the spirit will drain out of the side.
With all due respect in their hearts the West Brom players know they are down, forget how far they are from Saints, they are 11 points off safety, they need more than snookers now they need miracles, all they can do is show professional pride and go down with all guns blazing.
It will be a shame I like West Brom it is a good awayday trip, sadly we can't go this evening so we will have to watch it on the telly.
Hopefully this evening will be the start of a great 6 day period for Saints in which we have regained our form and confidence and find ourselves with an FA Cup final to occupy us for a month, but we won't count our chickens until they hatch and firstly we have to deal with another type of bird, the Throstles as they were known back in the 1970's when I first started watching football.
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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