|Can I just say that Friday night football is shite. Everything about it, from battling with the Friday night traffic, to the clubs impression that we all want to attend a particularly shite night club. The music was so mind numbingly loud that my teeth hurt, but the schoolboy error was that it was just plain boring. Everybody just looked at each other in a 'What The Actual Feck Is That' sort of way. For Christ's sake Saints - Grow Up.
Ralph thinks he is being clever rotating players into really weird positions, apparently to confuse the opposition, maybe he is clever, but with our current stock of players it really isn't going to work, as they are not yet up to his level. This games example of 'confuse a manager' was to leave out our actual left wing-back (Bertrand), put our right wing-back (Cédric) on the left and put a new central defender at right wing-back (Danso). Unfortunately the opposing manager was the intensely irritating, but very good Eddie Howe. He just said a metaphorical 'thank you very much' and targeted Both out of position wing-backs. They ran their bloody socks off in the first half and should really have had the game sewn up by half-time.
Anyway, the team sheet showed us that Gunn was in goal and in front of him were the returning Danso on the right, Bednarek and Vestergaard in the middle and Cédric on the left. Midfield had Romeu, Højbjerg, with Ward-Prowse and Boufal operating wide and forward. Thankfully Redmond was back with Adams, but as we already knew, there was no Djenepo, resting a muscle injury.
The bench contained our actual left wing-back, Bertrand, along with arguably our best central defender in Yoshida. But what do we know?
Sofiane Boufal has grown in stature with each successive game and impressed once again
IBO Reporter : channonite
|As you can gather from the Intro, within a few minutes of the start of the first 45 minutes I was well pissed off. Saints looked like a train wreck and Bournemouth looked like Manchester City on a good day. Which they most certainly are not. Both the Bournemouth team and the fans were well wound up for their derby, whereas we were apparently expecting just another Premier League game.
How we got to half time with the score only 0-2, I really don't know. Well, I do sort of, because VAR chalked off one 'goal' for offside.
It only took Bournemouth ten minutes to score their first and after a couple of early scares, Stacey went racing down the right wing and Højbjerg ushered the ball out, conceding a corner. The Saints defenders lined up in their zones, looking neat and tidy, but the Bournemouth players simply raced between them and Nathan Aké rose above them to head home. 0-1. Simple and already they were making us look like mugs.
The contrast was frightening. When we had possession we manoeuvred around the pitch looking for an opening - painfully slowly. When they had possession they moved rapidly upfield as a unit, giving the ball carrier plenty of options. Added to which, they simply took the ball from us seemingly at will. It was embarrassing.
Little more than five minutes later we thought that they had scored again, as they raced through the Saints lines, ending with King shooting past Gunn. Straight away referee Chris Kavanagh indicated a VAR review and after a very short delay NO GOAL was flashed up on the big screens. Close call.
The relief was only extremely temporary, as within ten minutes Bournemouth did make it 0-2, when once again they passed around us and Billing got to the byline, cutting back for Harry Wilson to score from the left of the area.
It wasn't until almost the end of the half before Saints began to get more into the game, after Hasenhüttl had changed the formation pulling Danso into the middle and putting Ward-Prowse at right wing-back. It wasn't the answer, but it did allow Saints to stem the tide a bit, with Romeu once again the standout in the middle of the park.
Finally Ramsdale in the Bournemouth goal was forced into action to palm away a fierce shot from Redmond, which was very mush on target. It wasn't much, but it lifted the gloom a bit.
Halftime arrived and Saints were 0-2 down, but there were signs of life. During the interval Bertrand appeared to warm up with the other substitutes, but was unusually in his full strip, rather than the training kit. Fans around me started to cheer when they saw it, concluding - rightly - that he was going to come on for the second half.
When the teams came out Bertrand lined up on the left, to great applause and he had indeed replaced Danso, but Cédric had moved across to his more normal right hand side. This was a bit radical, a right back on the right and a left back on the left. Whatever next?!
Straight away Saints looked way more comfortable and Bournemouth no longer had it all their way. In fact their defence was immediately put under pressure and there was a much more purposeful air to Saints play.
Boufal in particular was coming into the play far more, causing all sorts of problems and from one such passage of play, he had the defenders in knots and found Cédric advancing wide on the right. He entered the ball into the area and Ward-Prowse hit a shot only just over the bar. All the enterprise that was missing in the first 45 minutes.
In the efforts to go forward, Saints were leaving space at the back and they were nearly undone when Solanke raced forward, but Vestergaard did just enough to put him off and suddenly it was Saints on the attack, with a great cross field pass from Højbjerg finding Adams on the left wing. Che went racing in towards the area, but was brought down by Steve Cook just inside the area. Chris Kavanagh had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Penalty. Ward-Prowse stepped up to take the kick and made no mistake, confidently beating Ramsdale to make it 1-2. Just what the doctor ordered, a goal almost at the start of the half. There was life in the dog yet.
Then came a controversial moment when King went racing into the area and Cédric appeared to foul him, but the referee wasn't having it, immediately waving play on. It did go to VAR, but did not overturn the referees decision.
There followed a period where Saints were completely on top, even when they lost the ball, they seemed to be able to take it back at will. In this period Ward-Prowse once again fired a shot over the bar, Boufal had a good shot saved and Ward-Prowse sent another shot over the bar.
What would have happened if we had played this formation from the start? Saints really had their tails up now. Ings had replaced the unlucky Adams and then Redmond had a shot blocked. Bournemouth were rocking, the defenders were shouting at each other. An equaliser was coming. Ward-Prowse had a close range shot parried by Ramsdale but it fell just in front of him. For a few short moments nobody seemed to know where the ball was, but somehow it was hacked away. Breathless stuff.
In stoppage time Ramsdale got down to make an excellent save from the mercurial Boufal and with the resulting clearance, players were looking at Chris Kavanagh for the final whistle, the ball bounced right in front of Both Gunn and Bednarek outside the area. They contrived to get in each others way and Callum Wilson said thankyou very much and raced on to tap the ball into an empty net. 1-3. Gutted.
There was just time for the referee to blow for full time and the Bournemouth players and fans were understandably ecstatic. That was a game lost in the strange team selection. The way Saints played in the second half, there was just no way we would have lost had we just had the square pegs in square holes right from the start. This was down to the manager, but I hope this is not a mistake he will make again. Win at Portsmouth on Tuesday and this little aberration will be forgotten.
On a positive note there were several performances to be happy with, Bertrand and Cédric gave us width, experience and purpose, Boufal gave us guile, skill and tenacity, Romeu was simply imperious and Adams showed that he is more than just a scuffed goal sort of player, but he does need to get a goal soon.