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.