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|
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.
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
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.