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Preston North End 2 v 2 Southampton
SkyBet Championship
Wednesday, 25th October 2023 Kick-off 19:45
Southampton At Preston North End The Verdict
Thursday, 26th Oct 2023 10:53

Saints once again scrambled a goal in the dying minutes of injury time, this time to rescue a point at Deepdale with a header from goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu that deflected into the net from the home sides Ched Evans.

There were several changes from the side that started at Hull, there was no Taylor Harwood-Bellis in the back line and Ryan Manning was sitting out the game through suspension, Mason Holgate & James Bree replacing them, these changes were enforced, but further up the field Sam Edozie & Che Adams came in for Stuart Armstrong and Sulemana, with these two both on the bench.

Preston started the day a point ahead of Saints and the 1,549 Southampton supporters who made the 500 mile round trip on a Wednesday evening were hoping for a win that would push us not only back into the top 6 after the previous night's results, but potentially 3rd.

Preston started the stronger and looked to be hitting Saints before they got out of the traps, but as the game went on we grew into it and seemed to be finding our feet despite the four changes. However it still needed a smart save from Gavin Bazunu to keep the scores level.

So although Kyle Walker Peters stunning shot on 33 minutes came out of the blue, it was not a shock and now Saints were looking good for their 1-0 lead, but it again needed Bazunu to be the hero with a save from point blank range that he somehow kept out.

The second half saw Che Adams off and Sekou Mara on and initially it looked comfortable for Saints, I have seen some criticism of this change, but truthfully Adams did little in the first half and Mara was no worse in the second, it didn't change the game either way.

but on 52 minutes the home side were level, we defended the corner well, but our issue here was we left no one outside the box to clean up and Osmajic had plenty of time to fire a low shot through a crowd of players in the box to equalise, viewing it on a replay, there are far too many of our players marking thin air.

But it got worse 3 minutes later Preston down the right and although he tried his best to keep up, experience told and Potts held him off and fired home past Bazunu.

Now Preston had their heckles up and could see a win, we again made multiple changes, but we were struggling to keep shape and although Sulemana had a lot of the ball he could not use it with any effect.

So as injury time loomed things looked dire, but this is Southampton and we have a never say die attitude, our possession game at times may not please some, but it does wear down team and that is why we score so many late goals.

But with only seconds of the 6 minutes extra to be played it was last chance saloon as we got a corner, in truth I did not see Bazunu come up for the corner, but suddenly there was a flash of pink or whatever colour his shirt is called and the ball was in the net and almost 1,600 Saints supporters went wild.

So yet another point gained at the death and that might count come the end of the season.

So what is the general verdict, firstly I am surprised that with two out in the back four we made two further changes, I know it is tiring for players to play 3 games in a week, even more so when we have to travel over a thousand miles to play two of them.

But it should be to take every game as it comes and that should have meant our best team starting the game.

In defence I thought Mason Holgate did well, given how little football he has played, not just since arriving at St Mary's but in the previous year or more at Everton, he slotted in well.

Now the next paragraph may be upsetting for some, but I thought we missed Ryan Manning !

James Bree slotted in at left back and I didn't think he had two bad a game overall, but in the final half hour as we were chasing the game, it was not his type of game, he is not a wing back, he is a defender fairly and squarely, yes he got forward and he tried to overlap etc, but it just wasn't his type of game.

Not a criticism of Bree, but we needed width and people who could get in crosses, that better suited Manning than Bree.

On 72 minutes when Flynn Downes went off for Ryan Fraser, perhaps that should have seen Bree depart instead.

At this stage we were enjoying a lot of possession, we could have sacrificed a defender for an attacking option.

There will be those who disagree and there will be those who will see this as a poor result, I can see their point in some respects, but in others I would disagree, we are away from home against a team above us in the table, we are missing key players, perhaps we should have done better, but Preston are a hard side to beat and have lost only 3 times this season, this was a point well earned in the end.

Before the weekend we would have seen 4 points from two tough away trips as a good return, it still is, we are now getting together a run of games without defeat, that is 5 in total, we are in the play off spots, there is room for improvement I agree, but we will get stronger as the season progresses.

Some will also say we are in a false position, that all these late goals have saved our skins, but a goal is a goal whatever time in the match it is scored, Liverpool & Manchester United dominated English football from nigh on 35 years by scoring late goals and there was a reason for it and that is keeping the ball and wearing down the opposition.

So some good work at Preston in the main, now we have to put our foot on the gas and beat Birmingham on Saturday .

The final word should be on the superb support up at Deepdale, a 500 mile round trip on a Wednesday evening and nearly 1.600 made the trip, few would have been home before 2.30am.

Add to that the fact that many of these made a similar length journey on Saturday to Hull, that means for some they have travelled over 1,000 miles to follow the team in just 5 days and that should be applauded.

Photo: Action Images

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Mattsgrandad added 11:07 - Oct 26
What is the most infuriating tactic for me is the farting around across our box when under pressure inviting extra pressure and mistakes as nearly happened after the restart, why do we do this? We look like headless chickens when mistakes are made as the players panic and start to mis passes.
Please Saints stop this stupid tactic, we look like fools.

blambo added 11:08 - Oct 26
Shame (for many reasons) that we don't have Fraser Forster. He is a keeper that puts fear into a defence when thrown up for a late corner...

mgprobert added 11:24 - Oct 26
Saints were literally seconds away from only getting 1 point from these two games - the results are great but so much work still to be done. Lets take the positives, though.

JoeEgg added 11:43 - Oct 26
Have to disagree with NicK - this was a game we could and should have won. You say we had players missing - come on - Preston had more absentees than we did. If the team collapses defensively everytime a regular player is rested, suspended or injured, we are in deep trouble. We still do not have sufficient cover for absent defenders..
However lets start with the one real positive - our fans - here I agree with Nick - superb away support.
What has gone wrong with our forwards/strikers. It takes our goalkeeper to show them how to win the ball in the box! This is crazy. Adams, Armstrong and Mara rarely threaten the opposition goal - they just CANT score. So much now depends on the difference Stewart can make - if and when we eventually get to meet him - and if and when he can fend off injury!
When will our players learn NOT to give away stupid free kicks just outside our box allowing the opposition to produce dangerous crosses with every chance of scoring.? Again this is crazy - seeing Edozie wrestling a player to the ground giving Preston a great chance to open the scoring. What crazy mzntality!
Once again 70% possession and still more tippy tappy suicidal passing in front of our goal! Our forwards need to get the ball quickly at least on occasions if they are EVER going to find the back of the net.
We have failed to beat all but one of the top 10 sides that we have played and that is worrying. This is not a strong league and we have the makings of a team well capable of promtion. Too many changes last night and for too much of the game RM's style of play clearly doesn't suit our players - how many times have I said that! Despite the urgent need to get an equaliser we managed just 13 shots during the entire game. We shall be there or thereabouts at the finish but we are always going to make the task hard work playing this way.


davidargyll added 11:45 - Oct 26
I’ve said before that I am no fan of RM and his tippy tippy style of play: possession over result seems to be all he cares about.
The fact remains that the players, despite cocking it up on a regular basis - eg last night JB doing a rubbish pass leading to the second goal - do seem to have bought into it and there were some particularly nice looking moves and passes later in the game when PNE were clearly feeling the pressure.
And for all the criticism levelled at him, I think GB had a great game, saved us on at least a couple of occasions and of course “scored” the equaliser.
I have been the first to criticise some of our players, eg Holgate, Smallbone, but the fact remains that, as the season goes on, they are not getting any worse. Small praise I know but as they play more and more together I think the players will lift each other more and more in confidence, especially if they have bought into RMs style of play, and skill levels should rise.
Rose-tinted glasses? Well maybe but as I’ve said before the best managers are those who can take an average squad into a great team,and given our recent wobble, I hate to admit it but RM does seem to be making a decent fist of it.

Bowlercow added 11:56 - Oct 26
Sky coverage was spoilt by the female co commentator She needs to just keep quite now and then and realize that we do have the picture in front of us

Us conceding early after scoring or half time is a worry Is it because during the break the coaches overload the players with information? RM has said he gives them a lot to take in
I thought Bree did OK at LB and it allwed KWP to play in his strongest position
Our defenders allowed Osmajic to wind them up and therefore lose their concentration It lead to two quick goals Holgate in particular but Bednarek had to intervervene to stop him doing something stupid
Baz for once gets my MotM for 3 cracking saves and the goal contribution

We were discussing poor refereeing recently Well last night's was terrible He missed 2 pens both handball and one for each side He missed the tugging by Potts on Edozie that led to the second PNE goal

Overall pleased to get something from the game and keep our unbeaten run going

Avior added 12:09 - Oct 26
Could I just add to the comments on the away support last night. Only watched it on Sky but I thought they were superb. A number of people in my office commented on it this morning. Brilliant and more of the same on Saturday please

kristianJ added 12:49 - Oct 26
I think overall a point is a decent outcome against a very well drilled PNE side. My biggest complaint would be why we continue to persevere with Mara. His goal scoring record is abysmal and the other aspects of his game do not in anyway compensate for this. His amount of game time seems particularly unjust when other youngsters such as Doyle and Sam A-A, who appear to have more to offer (in different positions), don’t seem to get any game time at all.

stmichael added 13:23 - Oct 26
Missed Manning LOL
Bree was much more secure defensively and contributed far more than the statue going forward too.
Started the 2nd half comfortably ??
We started it abysmally and nearly gave a goal away before they eventually did score.
It was coming…
Defended the corner well?
Leaving players unmarked on the edge of the box suggests otherwise…
I think he has probably had enough chances now and is just ineffective.
What we should have done is switch Adam A up front where he wants to play and bring on either Stuart A or Kamaldeen…
Bizarre management tbh..
Otherwise agree with most of the verdict.
A good few days on the road and beat Brum a superb week…

Boris1977 added 15:28 - Oct 26
RM is getting results which is ultimately the most important things in the immediate term. Longer term the squad is a bit thin in terms of cover in important positions which will be an issue due to the number of games played in this division.

When we start with the likes of S Armstong and Sulieman it put us in pole position (i.e. Leeds) in matches as they are our most creative players. Once the lead is established it makes sense to swap both out with less creative players to hold a lead rather than bring SA and Sulieman to chase the game when the opposition get behind the ball and close any space. However we can't keep starting with our most creative players otherwise we risk injury to them.

I'm not convinced that we have enough quality through-out the team to play intricate passing, particularly in defence and deep midfield, as others have said it costs us possession too often. I can see what RM is trying to do in terms of integrating a certain style within the squad which aims to improve the players but with the pace of A. Armstong and Sulieman and the passing ability of Downes and S Armstrong quick counter attacking football would play to the inherent strengths within the team and would reduce the risk of conceding goals from losing the ball in our half.

Things could be better but they could also but much worse COYRs

Farlow added 15:38 - Oct 26
I agree with st.michel I thought Bree was a big improvement on Manning.
I,m sure Bazunu is a super chap but he is not a good enough goalkeeper
for a team who want promotion.Surely it would have been better to start
With the guys who had been away on International duty and sub them
when they tired.

wibbersda added 15:51 - Oct 26
Not sure what the complaints are about. I saw a Team giving their all right up to the final whistle, in what was a tough away game, against a forceful and successful counter-attacking team. I cannot remember the last time we played with that much passion, and the improvements are there for all to see. COYR.

SanMarco added 16:25 - Oct 26
I echo the comments about the fans - well done all.

My problem at the moment is that it all feels pretty low on quality. We are shaky at the back and hardly taking teams apart with the slow tippy-tappy. Preston looked like a pretty average team to me and we very nearly lost to them. I hope Nick's view that we are going to get better turns out to be true because at the moment we look distinctly average...

HythePeer added 17:20 - Oct 26
Dint pick the best players, dint get the best result.
Well done Bazunu, he ran the whole length of the pitch and headed a goal!

halftimeorange added 18:16 - Oct 26
No doubt we are predictable. Our passing is, at best, moderate and we are caught on the counter. This game was similar to the Rotherham match other than PNE having more chances. I am hopeful that Ross Stewart will provide the height and aggression so sadly lacking last night again.

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