Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The South Coast derby

Joel Gets His ReWard
Southampton were denied bragging rights as Joel Ward equalised for Pompey in the final few minutes at Fratton Park.

After a long, tense build up, the South Coast derby was upon us. The television cameras were set up at Fratton Park and the blue shirts started to arrive into the 20,000 seater stadium. As the tribe of coaches full of Saints fans made the 17 mile trip along the M27, pubs around each town filled up with anxious supporters. The police seemed to have the supporters' safety completely under control, the travelling Southerners arrived at Fratton Park via coach and were escorted straight into the Milton End. The atmosphere soon arrived too, both sets of fans singing towards each other in order to be heard over the commentary on BBC1.

Nigel Adkins was unable to select the inform Richard Chaplow due to an injury he picked up last week, although a boost for the travellers was Kelvin Davis being available after missing last weeks tie with Blackpool.
Michael Appleton named an unchanged starting eleven who beat Burnley in injury time last weekend.

As this fixture is relatively rare, both sides seemed slightly cagey in the opening sequence and didn't create any clear chances on goal. Saints' top scorer, Rickie Lambert, headed Dean Hammond's cross harmlessly over the bar in the fifteen minute mark, as shortly after, Kelvin Davis was required to make a comfortable save from Joel Ward's effort.

Saints started the game with almost double the points of Portsmouth in the league this season, but there wasn't much between the two Hampshire teams in the early stages.

David Kitson was receiving the ball from his team-mates, but failed to create any chances in the first half. Jack Cork appeared to trip the bright-haired striker and was therefore cautioned by referee, Mark Halsey.

Lambert's second attempt on goal was rather weak and didn't trouble Stephen Henderson, who was making his twelfth appearance for Portsmouth, in comparison to Davis at the other end, who was making his two-hundred-and-thirtieth appearance for Saints.
The league leaders have been struggling on the road this season, and their away form was showing in the first half as they failed to put the ball past Henderson. However neither team were composing clear-cut opportunities.

The first half drew to a close, the first forty-five were not as exciting as many would have expected in this bitterly fierce South Coast derby. Both teams were very evenly matched and clearly neither team wanted to make an error at the back with so much at stake.

The second half was under-way and the visitors had the best chance of the game on the fifty-second minute, Guly Do Prado crossed in the ball from the right as Lambert volleys it goal wards, all venom was taken out from the volley but Schneiderlin almost pounced on the ball before Henderson gathered.

As the hour mark approached, the game became more end-to-end, Southampton still edged possession and chances from Lallana and Guly gave the away side the edge. Pompey's attacks looked promising until the ball reached their final third, Kitson struggled to break through Fonte and Hooiveld.

The Saints piled on more pressure, this time Danny Fox's decent delivery was met by the head of Adam Lallana, who couldn't quite get the angle right for the break-through.
Moments later, Danny Fox again with a fantastic free-kick, which was met by the head of none other but Rickie Lambert, showing immense strength, the talisman put the Saints in front on the hour mark.

Half way through the second half, Southampton were keen to slow the game right down, taking time to bring the ball back into play. The only real chance soon after the goal was when Lallana found space on a slight counter attack, although he dwelled on the ball as the home side got players back in numbers. However, the ball was only cleared to Saints' skipper, Dean Hammond, who shot from distance but Henderson had no troubles keeping the ball out of the net.

Six minutes from time, Pompey make the most of a corner which was nodded back across goal and met by the diving header of Joel Ward. As expected, the home fans suddenly raised the noise levels in an attempt to win the game, but the table-toppers showed no push-overs and kept the game level.

As time was running out, Saints earned a corner in an attempt to snatch a dramatic late winner, but Fonte's header down was smashed clear by Kitson.
Mark Halsey blew for the final whistle which meant the spoils were shared on the South coast.

Player Ratings
Kelvin Davis 8 - Did well to come straight back into the team and could have kept a clean sheet if it wasn't for some appalling marking from the corner.
Frazer Richardson 8 - Having a great season, looks dangerous going forward and defends well when required.
Jose Fonte 7 - Gave away some needless fouls but was solid throughout, kept Kitson quiet.
Jos Hooiveld 8 - Won vital headers, looked strong, kept Kitson quiet.
Danny Fox 8 - Great assist for the goal, played really well defensively, shouldn't have come off.
Morgan Schniederlin 7 - Had a couple of chances, still adapting to the new role.
Dean Hammond 7 - Controlled the midfield well, had a good eye for goal for a change.
Adam Lallana 8 - Showed why he is so valuable to Saints, some brilliant skills on the left and skipped past Halford like he wasn't there numerous times.
Guly 6 - Got in the right positions, couldn't convert the chances. Obviously should have been there for the goal we conceded.

Mark Halsey 7 - Controlled the game well, wasn't a major decision to deal with.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Doncaster Rovers V Southampton

Billy Too Sharp For League Leaders

Saints remain top of the table despite a shock loss to bottom team Doncaster Rovers at the Keepmoat Stadium.

It was a bitterly cold morning as almost two-thousand Saints' fans travelled up north, to what they hoped would be their 14th win of the season. Doncaster were looking to bounce back from a mid-week defeat to Millwall, whilst Saints were keen to extend their lead at the top of the Championship.
Nigel Adkins was without talisman, Rickie Lambert and current in-form midfielder, Richard Chaplow due to injuries. Danny Fox came in for Dan Harding at left-back and Steve De Ridder made his second start of the season. With Lambert out of the squad, Adkins put faith in Guly Do Prado to score the goals as he started centre forward as a loan-striker. Southampton fans would be confident looking at the starting eleven, even without Lambert, as Guly is currently the clubs second top scorer.

A minute's applause was well participated by both sets of fans for the respect of Gary Speed, who passed away last week.
As the game kicked off, there was a feeling of expectancy in the Case Construction North Stand. Although it was clear from the beginning that Rovers were no push over; Kelvin Davis was at full stretch in the first five minutes when ex-Saints, Simon Gillett, struck an effort from outside the area which was destine for the bottom corner.
French under 21, Morgan Schniederlin, looked to be playing a more attacking role for a change as he found himself through on goal after some neat link up play with Guly, but Saints' fans had to settle for a corner as Rovers' 'keeper, Carl Ikeme, parried the ball wide.
As The Saints found some confidence after a spell of keep-ball, 23 year-old, Adam Lallana, was fouled 25 yards from goal, what would usually be a perfect position for Lambert to step up and hit one. However Fox and Schniederlin had their own ideas as a rehearsed set piece, which involved both players attempting to kick the ball at once to confuse the opposition came to nothing.
Danny Fox approaches the corner
Schniederlin then had another opportunity as he struck a dipping volley, forcing Ikeme to tip the ball over the bar for a corner kick. Fox drilled in the corner, giving Ikeme no other choice but to come and claim the fizzing cross.
Despite the slight edge, Southampton looked vulnerable when defending the flow of counter attacks being thrown at them by the hosts. Fortune was continuously testing Jose Fonte, but the Portuguese defender refused to let the striker through on goal. However, nothing stopped Brian Stock hit a sweet shot, striking the post as it flew past Davis in the visitors goal.
Two minutes later, Saints fans thought they had their breakthrough. Fonte and Guly combined well to send in Schniederlin, who saw his name in the headlines as he tested the on loan Wolves 'keeper, who managed to get a finger tip to the ball on the half-hour mark.
Doncaster soon sparked to life as James Coppinger won a corner in front of the travelling fans, the ball in found a way past Kelvin Davis, but fortunately for the league leaders Guly was on-call on the far post to head the ball off the line.
Almost immediately, Guly was at the other end of the pitch, hitting a long range shot which got Ikeme scrambling to keep the ball out, as the first half came to a close.
Rovers' manager, Dean Saunders, felt the need to make a change at half time, introducing former Derby midfielder, Giles Barnes, who replaced Harold Goulan.
Adkins tweaked the Saints side, a change of formation to 4-4-2 with De Ridder joining Guly upfront, and Schneiderlin dropping to a more defencive position in midfield.
As the rain came down onto the pitch, Frazer Richardson found himself in the referee's book following a mistimed challenge on Stock near to the touchline.
Southampton appeared to pile more men forward when attacking, which proved to leave them open at the back, as on loan West Brom striker, Fortune, used his pace to get passed Danny Fox and find Billy Sharp inside the area, who got the ball out of his feet to place the ball in the far corner past Kelvin Davis to put the underdogs 1-0 up on the hour mark.
Guly seemed to get progressively worse over the duration of the match, loose touches and mistimed  headers caused the Southern fans to get impatient with the Brazilian. As the away end chanted for fan-favourite, Lee Barnard (Right), Saints manager accepted the request, making a double change with Holmes also brought into the game replacing De Ridder and Jack Cork.
The two subs linked up beautifully straight away as Holmes floated a cross into Barnard, who couldn't quite direct his header goal wards.
Doncaster refused to let Saints back into the game, as Barnes took his time to tested shot-stopper Davis in the Southampton goal. Rovers' manager, Saunders, introduced another defender to the game in place of Fortune in an attempt to see the game out and secure the three points.
With time running out, opportunities were few and far between, as Guly was gifted another opportunity to win over the Saints' fans as Fox whipped in an inviting ball which may well have been the final chance to get something from the game, but the Brazilians' header was off-target, almost guaranteeing the loss.
The additional 4 minutes gave the Saints' fans false hope and the home side saw out the game as the home fans celebrated the win like a cup final.

Nigel Adkins admitted that his side must improve away form, following their fourth away loss of the season. The majority of fans would agree after the long, dull trip back down South.

Player ratings:

Kelvin Davis 8 - A fairly quiet game and was reliable when called upon,  couldn't do much about the goal.
Frazer Richardson 7 - Still in the form of his life, a few sloppy passes but put some decent crosses into the box.
Jose Fonte 8 - Done well to keep out Fortune and kept Sharp quiet except the goal.
Jos Hooiveld 8 - Would have been nice to score after the permanent deal secured in the week, but continued to impress.
Danny Fox 7 - Got forward well as ever, put some great crosses in, but failed to put a dangerous cross in from his corner taking.
Adam Lallana 6 - Surprisingly quiet, wasn't as dangerous as usual, still made chances, slightly dissapointing.
Morgan Schniederlin 8 - Started very bright with efforts on goal, showed versatility when playing a more advanced role.
Dean Hammond 6 - One of the worst games I've witnessed, gave the ball away easily and looked sloppy.
Guly Do Prado 5 -  Definitely the worst game hes had in a Saints shirt, no accuracy and didn't look a goal threat throughout the game.
Jack Cork 6 - Similar to Hammond, gave the ball away easily at times but still showed his qualities.
Steve De Ridder 7 - Didn't look as sharp as when he comes on as a sub, showed attacking abilities and caused the Rovers' defence some problems

Subs used:
Lee Barnard - Looked sharp, looking forward to seeing him back playing alongside Rickie.
Lee Holmes - Always reliable for a good ball into the box, linked up well with Barnard.

Mr A. Haines 7 - Controlled the game well, some decisions which raised eyebrows but overall did well.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A Saintly start to the season!

As we enter the international break this weekend, most Southampton fans would agree with me when I say I wouldn’t have expected us to be sitting 5 points clear at the top of the Championship before the season started. Despite an impressive league campaign last year in League 1, I personally was expecting Saints to struggle in the step up to the championship and at this stage be lying in mid-table. Big teams such as West Ham, Middlesbrough, and Birmingham etc. were expected to come to St Marys and beat Nigel Adkins’ side comfortably but in fact, The Saints have beaten all three of those teams already this season.  The key to their success has to be the style in which Adkins has got the team playing football, quick passing and creative movement along with the added quality of the offensive players including Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Richard Chaplow.

One of the aspects which contributes to promotion in any league is winning home games, something Southampton have done all season without fail, the biggest win so far coming against Watford back in October, when the score was 4-0 to the league leaders. However their away form has been less impressive, recently Saints had been under some pressure due to their away run, having not won in the past 6 away games. Although the doubts were soon brushed aside when they came out 4-2 winners over Coventry, despite Saints previously never winning at the Ricoh Arena.

Since taking charge of the team in September 2010, Nigel Adkins has so far completed an astonishing job, winning over 67% of games in charge, the best winning percentage as a manager for Southampton in the last century. I was personally unsure at first when he was appointed but I am positive that all Saints fans have been won over by Adkins, since being in charge, we have only lost just 11 out of 65 games.

Many fans across the country have expressed their views saying Southampton’s current run of form will soon come to an end, only time will tell if Saints can keep it up. The international break will give the players a well-deserved break before taking on Brighton at home, a side who shared promotion celebrations with Adkins’ men last season, The Seagulls won League 1 despite Saints beaten them 2-1 at The Withdean. The game will be a feisty affair between the two South coast teams, who seem to becoming more rivalry after each meeting, especially the two managers, Gus Poyet hit out at Adkins in a local newspaper after the Saints boss questioned Brighton’s abilities to ‘keep up’ with his side.

However I am religious to the fact that there will only ever be one south coast derby, Southampton and Portsmouth, who come together on the 18th December, this promises to be an exciting, intense game of football between two sides who take this fixture extremely seriously and passionately. Although, I think Saints fans would prefer to win all their remaining games of the season except lose to Portsmouth, rather than losing all their remaining games and beating Portsmouth.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Reading V Southampton

Saints Get Ridder 5 Point Lead At The Top

Saints fought back from going a goal down at the Madejski as super sub, Steve De Ridder, clinched a point for the league leaders.
It was a bitter yet sunny evening in Reading as both teams emerged from the tunnel, a short journey for the Saints fans, who sold out their allocation of over four thousand tickets.
Nigel Adkins decided to make the one change, swapping Morgan Schneiderlin for Jack Cork in the starting 11 which beat second placed West Ham on Tuesday night.
Pre-match entertainment wasn't worth a mention in this match report, although three handsome lads  were picked up by the Sky Sports cameras which must have pleased the viewers at home.
Both sides started the game fairly cagey, with neither team creating any clear-cut opportunities. Brian McDermott's side appeared to play The Saints at their own game, keeping the ball on the ground and playing an attractive style of football.
The first real action came on the twelfth minute as Saints centre back, Jose Fonte, handled the ball in the air as Reading forward, Le Fondre, was lurking behind the defender, resulting in an early booking for Fonte. Luckily for Southampton, the free kick taken by ex-Saint, Joseph Mills, was struck over the bar into the travelling supporters. 
Saints couldn't get control of the game in the early stages, in fact, Reading threatened to take the lead as Jobi McAnuff got passed Frazier Richardson to drill in a low cross which tested Danny Fox's alertness, who was on standby to cut out the danger.
The hosts continued in their efforts to go ahead when Simon Church took on a distant low shot which looked to be heading wide, despite the reflex save to turn it round the post by the Saints shot-stopper.
Saints' number 1, Kelvin Davis, was the busiest of the two keepers in the first half, Mikele Leigertwood this time with a shot from 30 yards which forced a corner out of Davis.
Southampton soaked up the pressure and eventually got the ball into the Reading penalty area as Jack Cork forced a save out of the home sides' 'keeper, Adam Federici, the resulting corner fell to Rickie Lambert, who attempted an acrobatic attempt which flew high into the stands.
Saints' substitute 'keeper, Bartosz BiaƂkowski, must have thought his time had come when Davis was quickly charged down by Le Fondre, who couldn't stop himself making contact with the knee of the 35-year-old. Thankfully for the away side, Davis managed to shake off the knock and steady himself for the next Reading attack.
Referee, Jon Moss, signalled the end of the first half which may have been even on possession stats, but dominated by the home side in terms of chances.
Nigel Adkins decided to introduce Aaron Martin to the game in replacement for Fonte, who apparently felt a tight hamstring progressing and was also on a booking.
Reading picked up where they left off as the second half began, forcing 3 corners, including one which was met by the header of former Saint, Alex Pearce, who narrowly headed wide.
Aaron Martin (right) would have dreamt of a goal right in front of the travelling fans, and he must have thought he had it, as he got his head to a Danny Fox free kick for Saints' first attempt on target 8 minutes into Martin's arrival.
As many Saints' fans will agree, Southampton manager, Nigel Adkins, has made many impact substitutions in his reign and it was no surprise to see Steve De Ridder introduced on the hour mark after scoring a controversial disallowed goal on Tuesday at St Marys.
De Ridder's impact was apparent immediately as he forced a low save from Federici in front of the away support after Chaplow's impressive run.
Ex-Saint, Mills, was struggling to cope with De Ridder's pace as the Belgian rounded the Reading left-back, the two players then clashed and De Ridder was booked for the foul which looked unintentional.
Great build up play by the visitors involving Chaplow and Lambert progressed into the Reading 18 yard area as the ball fell to Danny Fox, who was about to pull the trigger 8 yards from goal until Kaspars Gorkss came sliding in with a crucial interception.
Reading were soon back on the attack as Liegertwood was brought down by Saints skipper Dean Hammond, who was shown a yellow card for the foul on the edge of the area. McAnuff stepped up for the free kick and curled a fantastic effort which hit the post and came back into play, the fastest player to react was Liegertwood who shot first time with a tidy finish in the bottom corner.
The goal was nothing more than the home side deserved, although you wouldn't put it past the Saints coming back into the game, the league leaders have scored in every game they have played in so far this season in the league.
However, as things looked bad for the visitors, Dean Hammond lunged in on Mcanuff to give Mr Moss no other option than to produce a second yellow card for the skipper and give him his marching orders.
The travelling fans failed to give up hopes though and continued to get behind their team despite the situation which looked to be a tough uphill battle from then on.
De Ridder rescues a point for The Saints
Much to the surprise of many, De Ridder picked up the ball from Guly, who then dropped the shoulder and weaved his way into the area. What looked to be a tight angle on goal, De Ridder then fooled the keeper and let the ball run past his stride to belt the ball into the net off the bar in front of the 4000 travelling supporters who went bananas!
Saints then had their tails up and began to push for a winner, with the away end the noisier of the two sets of fans, Southampton looked more likely to win the game with ten minutes remaining.
Having already made a successful substitution, Adkins brought on Schneiderlin for Guly, who had a quiet game and didn't have the best of performances in a Saints shirt.
The game opened up and it was end to end stuff with De Ridder keen to get the winner, but if anything, too keen, as he was flagged offside.
Former Saint, Mills, had the last chance of the game as he took on a shot from distance which ended up in the stands, high and wide.
Jon Moss brought the game to a halt as both sides seemed content with a point a piece. Nigel Adkins was no doubt the happier manager with an away draw which could easily have been a loss following the early departure of his captain.
Saints still the league leaders but the gap is now down to 3 points, which is still something to be proud of by the newly promoted side. However, 3 points away at Reading would have put them in a fantastic position, which would have put them 5 points clear.

Player Ratings:

Kelvin Davis 9 - Made a couple of fantastic saves and got to crosses/corners well.
Frazier Richardson 7 - Continued his great form, could have been more solid defensively.
Jose Fonte 7 - Looked solid and comfortable in possession as ever.
Jos Hooiveld 8 - Played well defensively but needs to play less dangerous passes out of defense.
Danny Fox 8 - Good game, got forward and could have had a goal for himself.
Dean Hammond 6 - Passed the ball wide nicely before being sent off, let himself and the side down with the two silly challenges though.
Richard Chaplow 7 - Good game, linked up well with Lambert, a few miss-placed passes though.
Guly Do Prado 6 - A disappointing performance by the Brazilian, probably the worst I've seen him so far, looked lazy and not interested.
Jack Cork 7 - Played some great passes and showed good agility but some sloppy touches and passes could have cost the side.
David Connolly 6 - Very quiet game, looked disappointed to have come off although it wasn't much of a surprise.
Rickie Lambert 8 - Won a number of headers in the air, involved as always in the attack and made chances.

Subs used:
Aaron Martin 8 - Played well defensively, should have scored but did well to come on at half time.
Morgan Schneiderlin 7 - Didn't see a great deal of the ball but played some nice passes which he is capable of.
Steve De Ridder 9 - Done a fantastic job to make impact and score a great goal to rescue a point.

Referee - Jon Moss 7 - An average game by the referee, no major decisions to make and he got his main decisions correct. A couple of poor decisions when giving fouls instead of playing advantage but overall an O.K performance.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Southampton V West Ham United

Jos Is The Boss!

Jos Hooiveld headed home a Danny fox corner which proved to be the winning goal in front of a jam-packed St Marys. 
Newly promoted Southampton hosted recently relegated West Ham in front of a record attendance of 32,150. The atmosphere was buzzing and both sets of fans were hoping to see their side win the game and go top of The Championship on a cold Tuesday evening.
As for team line-ups, West Ham were without James Tomkins but manager Sam Allardyce decided to risk former Portsmouth midfielder Matthew Taylor. Southampton, on the other hand, decided to keep Adam Lallana out of the match day squad after a late review on his fitness due to his foot injury picked up at Derby. Dean Hammond came back into the starting eleven and Frazier Richardson also started, despite coming off on Saturday due to a knock. 
The Hammers got the game under way, meaning Saints would be shooting towards the persistent noise in the Northam Stand. Innebatally the villain of the match was going to be Matthew Taylor, (Ex-Portsmouth) but the boos didn't phase the midfielder as he got on the action from the first whistle but failed to make Kelvin Davis sweat. Saints skipper, Dean Hammond, was at the heart of the action in the first fifteen minutes getting a number of shots off to test The Hammers' loanee Manuel Almunia.
The twenty minute mark capped the home crowds biggest cheer of the game yet when former Portsmouth captain Matt Taylor was forced to be substituted as a recurring calf injury ended his game early. If anything, Taylor's departure lifted the home side and they began to look the more comfortable in the game with efforts from Richard Chaplow, but fortunately for the visitors his attempts were off target.
As the half went on, both sides looked more dangerous but The Saints seemed to have the edge, Chaplow yet again with a chance to put the home side ahead, only for Almunia to pounce on the ball to keep the game level. David Connolly also getting in on the act with a shot which was blocked and not threatening the West Ham goal.
The home sides' persistence paid off though as Danny Fox took a well flighted corner which was met by the head of centre half, Jos Hooiveld, with a fantastic header giving Almunia no other option than to watch the ball hit the back of the net.
The goal, a minute before half time, gave The Saints the one goal advantage at the interval which meant if the score stayed the same, Southampton would retain their one-hundred percent home record at St Marys.
The league leaders kicked off the second half knowing if they kept a clean sheet, they'd have stacked up seventeen consecutive home wins.
West Ham's Winston Reid had the first attempt of the second half, but his effort didn't trouble Saints' number one and Southampton started to dominate the game.
The Hammers' skipper, Kevin Nolan, was booked for the reaction of a free kick given against him by the referee, the midfielder felt his opposite number, Morgan Schniederlin, went down too easily. Sam Baldock also showed frustration to the referee and joined his captain in the book. Lambert took the resulting free kick only for it to be blocked, which lead to a succession of corners for The Saints. However the home side couldn't steer any of the corners into the net like they did first half, in fact, West Ham looked more likely to score as Sam Baldock found himself in a one-on-one situation, but the twenty-two year old could only curl the ball past the outside of the post.
Goalscorer, Jos Hooiveld was booked with under half an hour to play for dissent as he disagreed with the referee's decision in an unsporting way.
As the game started to become open, the ever so lively David Connolly's eyes lit up as Pap Bouba Diop slipped on the carpet-like turf, but the Irishman didn't manage to bend his shot enough to test Almunia.
It would be fair to say with fifteen minutes left of the game, Saints looked on top with all midfielders playing at the top of their form, as they have all season. Chaplow, again looked more likely to score as he had a driven shot which looked destine for the bottom corner but curled wide.
Chaplow saw yellow (surprise) with a tackle from behind on Henri Lansbury, the Southampton midfielder was then substituted immediately for Dan Harding, who came on to play on the left side, similar to Saturday at Derby.
Gully Do Prado was pushed slightly forward to support target man Rickie Lambert upfront as Connolly was replaced by the talented ex-Chelsea midfielder, Jack Cork.
Not for the first time this season, Nigel Adkins' substitution appeared to be an advantage for Southampton, as Gully saw sight on goal with a shot threatening to kill the game off.
Adkins used his final substitution of the game 5 minutes from time, bringing on the lively sub De Ridder on for Gully. It looked to be another great minded change by the manager, who has taken The Saints from league 1 to top of The Championship, when De Ridder was played in by Dan Harding and casually slotted the ball through the legs of Almunia. However, the referee had already blown his whistle for a foul in Southamptons' favour, much to De Ridder's disappointment.
The tension in St Marys could be cut with a knife as the fourth official indicated 5 additional minutes at the end of the ninety, in fact, it seemed to make the league leaders more nervy at the back. Kelvin Davis was required to tip Mark Noble's free kick over for a corner, which lead to his corner to be flicked off the head of a defender as the ball came back off the far post, relief for the 32,000 home fans inside!
Darren Deadman blew the whistle for full time and a big cheer inside St Marys was not only for the strong performance from The Saints, but for the 5 point gap their team now have at the top of the table. Opposing manager, Sam Allardyce, would have hoped for a better birthday present from his side going into Wednesday, but Adkins' men showed no let up.

Most importantly, Portsmouth lost 1-0 away at Ipswich. Moreover, Steve Coterrill, who left the club this week, managed Nottingham Forest to beat Middlesborough to allow Saints to go 5 points clear.

Team Rating:

Kelvin Davis 8 - Made some crucial saves in the game to keep Saints in it, including a one-on-one.
Frazier Richardson 8 - Still continuing his great form and gets forward at every opportunity.
Jose Fonte 7 - Solid as ever, dived in at one moment and slipped which could have cost the game.
Jos Hooiveld 9 - The loanee capped a great performance with a great headed goal.
Danny Fox 7 - Got some decent crosses in, not forgetting the corner which assisted to the goal.
Morgan Schniederlin 7 - Played well in the middle and worked hard when stamina was vital.
Dean Hammond 8 - The skipper played well and could have bagged himself a goal tonight.
Gully Do Prado 7 - Got forward as he likes to do, nearly scored a number of times too.
Richard Chaplow 8 -Showed good energy and had an eye for goal before being substituted.
David Connolly 6 - Looked lively like usual but didn't seem to get involved as much as usual.
Rickie Lambert 7 - Proved to be a target man and won the headers to get the ball down and play.

Subs used:
Dan Harding - didn't see much of the ball, but when he did, used it well and got down the line.
Jack Cork - Came on and could have used the ball better and put the ball in areas to run down the clock.
Steve De Ridder - Came on and scored but the referee wasn't on the same wave-length as the rest of us.

Referee Rating:
D. Deadman - Slightly disappointed with the referee, didn't let the game flow enough in the second half as he did so well in the first. Gave out yellow cards far too easily and could have controlled it better towards the end. 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Derby County V Southampton

League Leaders Held By Resilient Rams
A beautiful day marked the occasion of third placed Derby County hosting league leaders Southampton on Saturday afternoon, the sun was shining and both sets of fans were out in their thousands as Pride Park saw its first sell out of the season. Much to the Southampton fans disappointment, Adam Lallana, arguably The Saints' most creative midfielder, didn't appear in the starting line up to face a Derby side with little injury worries. Surprisingly, Saints' skipper Dean Hammond was amongst the substitutes for the second time this season.
The two thousand plus southerners who made the trip up north were noticeably vocal as the game commenced, However, The Rams' forward Theo Robinson silenced the away section in the third minute as The Saints defence failed to clear their lines. Right back Frazier Richardson looked in trouble when Derby striker Jamie Ward got the better of him on the left until centre half Jose Fonte came sliding in with a tackle which looked successful until the ball fell to a County midfielder who slotted the ball into the box for Ben Davies to strike the ball at goal when Saints' number one, Kelvin Davis, parried the ball into the path of Theo Robinson (who appeared to be offside) to give the hosts the lead.
Nigel Adkins got the response he was looking for from his men, as the early goal seemed to give the away side a wake up call, midfielder Richard Chaplow forced future England hopeful Frank Fielding into a reflex save with a low shot from 10 yards out.
It appeared to be the visitors piling on the pressure and creating the most chances, Saints' top scorer Rickie Lambert threatened to put Adkins' side level. Brazilian Gully Do Prado also firing just over the bar in an attempt to raise the noise of the travelling faithful.
Gully then whipped in a corner for The Saints which lead to 6 ft 2 central defender Jose Fonte to head the ball towards the goal, only to be turned over the bar by Steven Davies of all people.
Southampton top goal scorer, Rickie Lambert, had an opportunity to put his side level when a free kick was awarded in his favour just outside the area. The free kick was smashed into the wall and kindly broke to Chaplow, who couldn't arrange his footing in-time for the shot which was blasted into the stand.
Referee, Mark Brown blew the whistle to indicate the end of the first half and it was the home side who had the advantage at the break. Arguably the wrong side were ahead at half time but the Saints fans showed no signs of giving up as the bellowing chant of "Yellows!" could only drive on the away side.
Once again, Southampton looked the team more likely to score the second goal of the game when the second half kicked off, Rickie Lambert once again at the heart of the action as he turned Mark O’Brien in his own area but only to hit a tame effort at Frank Fielding.
Former Burnley left back, Danny Fox then attempted to put a cross into the box to feed David Connolly an opportunity but the Derby defence cleared with ease and came away with the ball, much to Fox's frustration as he then sprinted to win the ball back and clattered Craig Bryson to earn himself nothing but a yellow card.
Steve De Ridder, Saints winger, was brought on for Chaplow with half an hour to produce a goal to level the away side.
Eventually, The Rams just couldn't hold off the pressure as star man Lambert continued to press before a one-two with David Connolly gave top scorer, Lambert, the chance to turn onto his favoured right foot and place the ball powerfully into the bottom corner as he jogged off to celebrate with the sea of yellow travelling supporters on the sixty first minute.
Almost immediately after the goal, Lambert again was through on goal and perhaps should have scored although his shot was off target after losing balance from just 8 yards out.
Derby appeared to find their feet again and progressively came back into the game in the second half making the event more even to the delight of the home fans. However both teams didn't show any signs of this game being a friendly encounter as Portuguese Jose Fonte reacted fiercely after a clash of heads when leaping for a header which the referee deemed to be a foul against the Southampton centre half.
With De Ridder's influence showing The Saints to be openly attacking, Adkins decided to bring on Skipper Dean Hammond to balance things in the midfield for Frazier Richardson, who looked to have picked up a slight injury.
As the scoreboard showed a minimum of fifteen minutes remaining, The Rams became more involved in the game as they pressed The Saints into conceding free kicks and corners. Morgan Schniederlin was dispossessed on the wing and clearly felt frustration with himself as he decided to sprint back towards the ball and swipe Jamie Ward's legs from underneath him to earn the French midfielder his 1st yellow card of the season.
One of the major talking points of the game was Steven Davies' clash of heads with Jose Fonte. The Derby striker didn't seem to make much movement after his fell to the ground, 7 minutes later, the striker who has five goals in eleven games this season, was stretchered off the field to an applause by both sets of fans.
Five minutes later the home side thought they had a winner when Jason Shackell rose to meet a Ben Davies corner but his effort was headed off the line by Guly.
Rickie Lambert found himself in referee, Mark Brown's book as he kicked the ball away with aggression due to being flagged offside.
Nigel Adkins gave Dan Harding a short run out for the last couple of minutes to cap his return from injury in hope to get a winner for The Saints but the game ended in what both parties may argue a draw was the fairest result.

The Saints player ratings:

Kelvin Davis 7 - Made some decent saves and kicking looked an improvement.
Frazier Richardson 7 - Good game, got forward a lot and defended well until subbed.
Jose Fonte 8 - Gave away some needless free kicks but solid throughout.
Jos Hooiveld 6 - Gave the ball away too many times, didn't win enough headers.
Danny Fox 7 - Decent performance but gave the ball away a couple of times, made a rash challenge.
Guly 8 - Solid performance, won some vital headers and looked lively.
Jack Cork 8 - Another great performance, used the ball well, did a good job at right back when required.
Richard Chaplow 7 - Good link up play with the front two, missed some good opportunities though.
Morgan Schneiderlin 8 - Battled well in the middle but gave away a free kick to earn a yellow card.
David Connolly 8 - Chased every ball, worked hard and linked up well with Lambert.
Rickie Lambert 9 - Won nearly every header and capped off a good performance with a nice goal.

Subs used:

Steve De Ridder 8 - Looked fast and skillful when he came on and created some chances for the forwards.
Dean Hammond 7 - Looked like a difficult game to come into the centre midfield late on but secured the draw.
Dan Harding - Didn't really have enough time to get on the ball and create anything on the left side of midfield.