|Southampton 2 v 1 West Bromwich Albion|
Saturday, 11th November 2023 Kick-off 15:00
Southampton V West Bromwich Albion The Verdict
Sunday, 12th Nov 2023 11:26
It was a game where Saints had to did in and weather the storm in the second half, but they passed another test of character to go on and win the game after the Baggies got up a head of steam.
There were no real surprises in the starting line up, just the one change with Mason Holgate coming in for the suspended Jan Bednarek and the loanee from Everton would slot it seamlessly at the back and play a big part in what would be an eventual victory.
Before the game could start though there was a moving tribute for Remembrance weekend and the last post and minutes silence was impeccably observed by both home and away supporters.
The game couldn't have started better for Saints. Adam Armstrong saw his shot well saved by the keeper and Will Smallbone swept in the rebound with all eyes on the referee as a defender cleared the ball from what was well behind the line.
So a 1-0 lead in only the 5th minute gave Saints a great foundation to build on and the first half saw the home side dominating and sweeping forward, however there would be no second goal in what would eventually be a game than saw very few actual attempts on target, I cannot remember the West Brom keeper making a save of note after his initial block in the run up to Smallbones goal and the only one that Gavin Bazunu had to save other than the goal was late on when he blocked from close range with the Baggies pushing for a late equaliser.
But if Saints fans thought that it would be pretty much the same as the first would be mistaken, the visitors came out with a renewed spirit and they were pushing Saints back, running at them and putting crosses into the box.
In the main Saints dealt with it well, Mason Holgate was named man of the match by the sponsor and he had a good case for that award, he has not enjoyed a great start to his time at St Mary's, but he showed that he has the quality that we will need during a long season, Russell Martin will have to think long and hard about his back four next time out, Jan Bednarek was in fine form before his suspension, he should perhaps deserve his place back, but great to see we have rivals for the position if his standards should drop.
But West Brom's pressure paid off in the 65th minute, Mason Holgate headed over his own bar to defend another dangerous cross and although the resulting corner was cleared when the ball came back in Bartley scuffed the ball home from close range after it had rebounded off the bar.
In the build up to the goal Russell Martin was about to make a triple change and he did so straight after the goal.
But now Saints looked in trouble, West Brom poured forward but a header than skimmed the top of our bar was the best they could muster as the home side gritted their teeth, dug in and held firm.
As the game approached the last ten minutes you could see only one winner and it wasn't the men in red, but the storm had been weathered and a draw looked the most likely result.
However we were now getting more of the ball and we worked it to the left wing and Ryan Fraser put in a great cross which skimmed off a West Brom head and fell to Adam Armstrong at the far post, he didn't snatch at it, he controlled it and then fired home from close range for what would be the winner.
So with the game now back in our favour came a strange substitution from Russell Martin, off went Adam Armstrong who is perhaps the one player you want to keep on in the final minutes for his non stop running and work rate and on came Ross Stewart, I can understand why the manager would want to get Stewart on and get game time under his belt, but this wasn't the substitution that we needed.
We were winning the game, we needed to close it out and we brought Stewart on and played him out of position on the wing, in truth if he was to get the striker on he was limited on options, against Birmingham with the game poised at 2-1 the manager took off Alcaraz and brought on Joe Aribo to add strength to the midfield, with Downes and Smallbone off the field by the 67th minute, this surely would seem to be the obvious move.
But although there was one late scare with Bazunu having to act quickly to block from close range, we stayed firm and took all three points.
Although this wasn't a perfect game, it didn't go to the script, the fact was it was a test of our resolve, did we have the bottle and spirit to keep going when the chips were down, we couldn't get our possession game going in the second half, so we had to adapt and in the main we did and reaped the rewards.
Did we deserve to win the game ? yes from the perspective that we never gave up and made our chance and took it when it came, would i have felt aggrieved if I was a West Brom fan, yes absolutely, this was a fairly even game overall, a draw would have been a fair result, but the Baggies had dominate the second half.
The proof of a good side chasing promotion is the ability to dig out results like this one, win games when you have not played particularly well and that is a real plus point.
Another plus point was the quality we had, as I have often said, this is what will distinguish us from our rivals, this was the case that with Jan Bednarek, one of our best players of the last month or so suspended, we had Mason Holgate to step in, proven Premier League quality.
Off the bench we had the likes of Ryan Frazer, Che Adams and Shea Adams when changes needed to be made.
This was a true team effort, everyone did their job, it is hard to single anyone out for real praise, but then again there is no one who could be singled out for criticism.
This was a game when we just kept going and in doing so, started to put daylight between ourselves and those outside the top six, West Brom would have been above us if they had won, but they are now in 7th and 4 points behind.
Indeed it was a good week for us, we saw Leicester again lose, we saw Ipswich drop points, although sadly not yesterday and now both are with 9 points of our reach.
The season is now starting to sort out the wheat from the chafe and after it reconvenes after the International break as games come thick and fast we will see who has the quality and indeed the quality to keep going.
So another good win for Saints our third in a row in the space of a week, hopefully this will stop the knockers and get people behind the manager and indeed ALL the players, of course we all have our favourites, but we should support them, abusing our own players as someone who sits a few rows behind me does every week very loudly is not support, it helps no one.
There will be dodgy periods, both in games themselves as happened on Saturday when we had to dig in and in terms of the season, as Leicester & Ipswich have found out this week.
Again it was great to leave St Mary's happy, the buzz that winning gives you should always be enjoyed, sometimes it is the satisfaction of a comprehensive win, but at other times as it was yesterday, the satisfaction of showing that we can still win when the chips are down and we are not dominating.
Holgate - Yellow
Photo: Action Images
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Blogs 31 bloggers
Knees-up Mother Brown #14 by wessex_exile
The blog returns with KMB14, after another awayday last weekend and first visit for me to Edgeley Park to see the U’s pit their wits against the heir apparent champions Stockport County. Despite a stewarding fubar that I’ve probably mentioned more than enough already, it was a good day out overall, with the U’s more than a match for Stockport for most of the game, apart that is from a 90 second lapse in concentration either side of half-time. Certainly no disgrace though, and with the U’s getting straight back on the bike midweek with a comfortable 1-0 victory over League 1 Posh (albeit against largely their second string), I think we can look forward to this afternoon against promotion contenders Barrow with a degree of confidence.
Knees-up Mother Brown #13 by wessex_exile
KMB13, and this weekend I’m sure we will all, in our own way, pause to remember the fallen. With war again raging in Europe, and the Middle East aflame, I’m sadly reminded of the lyrics of Eric Bogle.
Knees-up Mother Brown #12 by wessex_exile
It’s a wet, windy first weekend of November, which can mean only one thing – it’s the magic of the FA Cup again! Today we face a trip to the New Meadow, home of League 1 Shrewsbury Town. I’ve never been to the New Meadow, my last trip to Salop was to watch the U’s win 2-1 in our FA Cup second round match at Gay Meadow back in December 2005 – and what a day that was too. That match was featured in Matches of Yesteryear #20, and it was pleasing to see it was the focus of a club interview with Greg Halford last week. There is also something very noteworthy about today – unless my calculations are awry, this will be our 200th appearance in the world’s greatest cup competition.
Knees-up Mother Brown #11 by wessex_exile
Well, following the U’s has been a bit of a rollercoaster through the last week. Ben Garner’s U’s slumped to a very poor home defeat last Saturday against Harrogate Town, despite taking the lead with a sublime strike from Chay Cooper. Robbie had seen enough, and that evening Ben was let go, with U21 lead coach Matty Etherington announced as the interim Head Coach on Monday. On Tuesday night, Matty Etherington’s U’s put in one hell of a shift, to come away from Grimsby (Cleethorpes – ed.) with all three points and a masterclass from Arthur Read – happy days, could Matty be our man? Well, not right now that’s for sure, after a call to Robbie from Crawley Town yesterday letting him know that apparently Matty is tied up in a contract exit clause from his brief spell at Crawley, seemingly forbidding him from operating in a head coach/ manager role until May 2024 (when his Crawley contract would have expired). So, Matty Etherington is stood down, with Assistant Head Coach Scott Marshall stepping up as our new interim Head Coach for the tough trip to Accrington Stanley.
Knees-up Mother Brown #10 by wessex_exile
Back again, after another U’s-induced matchday ‘experience’ at FGR, and what an experience it was. What was already a poor match between two poor sides descended into insanity after the red card for Mingi, with the U’s dismantled repeatedly to let four second half goals in. I hardly ever leave a game before the final whistle, but as the board went up for nine more minutes I’d seen enough and me and Alfie headed out for our lift home (and as a result, missed the frank exchange of views between players and supporters at the end). However, let’s focus on the positives, whatever was said, a much changed U’s were a different team on Tuesday at League 1 Cambridge. The U’s thoroughly deserved the win and their Pizza Slice Trophy three points, thanks in no small part to an excellent performance from Chay Cooper.
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