Well I made it to the game by the skin of my teeth having had a busier than usual day at work which meant that I left later than normal. I elected to drive to the Park & Ride facility that Southampton provide rather than take the train as I usually do when visiting St Mary’s. I’m glad to say that the journey went without a hitch once I’d found the car parking area. I had a whole double-decker bus to myself which was a bit of a novelty and made it to the ground with about five minutes to spare. I grabbed a Chicken and Mushroom pie at the catering bar which had to be in breach of the Trades Descriptions Act. Two tons of pastry filled with volcanically hot Monosodium Glutamate containing two or three small diced pieces that I think represented processed chicken but not a mushroom to be seen; no sir – not one. Hungry though I was, it was so unappetizing I gave up after a couple of bites.
Enough has been written about the game for me not to bore you further. I was baffled as to why we played 4-5-1 against a League 1 side. These tactics served to give Saints far more of the attacking initiative than they should have been allowed and as the game went on they became increasingly confident as we were offering little threat apart from a couple of free kicks from Larsson and McSheffrey and a super drive by Benitez whose shot crashed against the inside of the post in the first half. I didn’t feel that Saints had enough in their locker to threaten us either and was on the point of dozing off when in the 52nd minute Lallana curled an absolute beauty into Maik Taylor’s top left hand corner from twenty yards when Larsson dithered on the ball. Not long after the Swede was sacrificed and O’Connor came on to give Benitez much needed help up front. Saints lost their captain, Murthy with what looked a nasty knee injury and the two things combined changed the game. Once we went 4-4-2 we were all over them and the equaliser when it came from the best move of the game was a quality finish from Bowyer from an exquisite pass from Benitez following his link up with McSheffrey who had an excellent game I thought. Three minutes later with Saints tiring and their belief draining away Carsley side footed the winner from 15 yards.
It begs the question as to why we didn’t do this from the outset. As it was we had other chances to have beefed up the score line although that would have been harsh on Saints in the overall context of the game. However a positive attacking attitude from the start and I suspect this famous, proud south coast club could have been on the wrong end of a hiding. Benitez was a class act all night, Franck Queudrue had another solid game, Espinoza looked rusty and has to learn that in English football forwards are not going to allow centre-halves time to strut their funky stuff. Carr was imperious filling in a left back and Parnaby played ok. Larsson had a quiet game, O’Shea performed well but looks a bit lightweight at the present time, Carsley and Bowyer did what they do and Gary McSheffrey had an effective game. McFadden came on in the second half and added a touch of class to proceedings so overall a good result but with a “could do better” caveat.
Moving on, the take over by Carson Yeung would appear to be going ahead this time. There was speculation yesterday that we were about to go for Tuncay from Middlesborough with Yeung stumping up the money. This morning however, it appears that he is prevented from doing so because of Hong Kong stock market rules! How many more transactions are going to be prevented from going through in the future because of this? There is a feeling of déjà vu about all this somehow. The Michel saga is beginning to drag on. Now it appears that Sporting Gijon are stalling for a bigger down payment. Whether this is all media froth to fill column inches of actual truth remains to be seen but either or preferably both of these players are essential to improve our barely adequate squad. Both are excellent players and would enhance our team considerably. I think we would all feel a lot more confident if these players could be landed. As for Craig Gardner; well I never believed this story in the first place so enough said about that.
On to Spurs this weekend; one or two mates of mine fear the worst here but I have to confess I felt that same about our trip to Old Trafford. I was disappointed with not getting a point from that in the end considering how well we played. Once again I think we have to make sure we don’t concede early and get into the game. If we can keep it tight for as long as possible well you never know. One last thing; I probably have no objections to starting 4-5-1 in that one!