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.