|Well, that could have gone better. In the Manchester United match report, I touched on how tired some of the players looked and it seems Ralph had already decided to rest some of those who have done so well since the restart. Five players were rested, but only Bertrand was afforded a complete rest. Walker-Peters, Stephens, Armstrong and Adams were all on the bench, in case of need.
Into the team came Jake Vokins at left back, Højbjerg at right back (!!), Vestergaard alongside Bednarek in the heart of the defence, with Will Smallbone and Michael Obafemi filling in for Armstrong and Adams.
Needless to say, with a right back who had never even played in that position and the ponderous Vestergaard alongside him, the team often looked like some random strangers, rather than a proper Premier League teaming it was only in the second half, with the introduction of Walker-Peters and Adams after the break, that we saw the team we have come to know and love.
Danny Ings scored his 20th Premier League goal of the season in the second half
IBO Reporter : channonite
|It was with some trepidation that I waited for the match to start, having eventually got my BTSport Match Pass working. The reason for my caution was that Saints are safe from relegation and have been for a while mow, but Brighton very definitely needed something out of the game and there we were, playing Højbjerg at right back (a position he has never played before) and alongside him was Vestergaard (with all the manoeuvrability of the Queen Mary), what could possibly go wrong.
The match started and I had hardly got settled, before Højbjerg popped up on the right to collect a long raking, cross-field pass from Romeu, he chested it down and shot ..... straight at the Brighton keeper. A decent chance in the very first minute.
That was a bit of a false dawn though, as Brighton soon got the upper hand and Saints were under pressure. You just knew a goal was coming and not from Saints, as the defence looked totally disorganised, with only Jake Vokins showing any sort of confidence, or indeed, competence.
The Brighton goal, when it came, was no surprise and it was a thing of simplicity. A throw-in on the right, about halfway inside Saints half (and right in front of where I would normally be sitting), was flicked on by Murray and there was Maupay, surrounded by three Saints players, to volley home the opening goal. 0-1 Brighton.
When Saints did have possession they were way too ponderous and slow, reminding me of nothing more than Puel-ball, where they always used to play from side to side and back again. Somehow Danny Ings found himself with the ball and immediately stepped up several gears, ending with it nestling in the back of the Brighton net. Unfortunately the lines-person, Ms Massey-Ellis had correctly indicated for offside. Incidentally, I have a lot of time for her, she gets a lot of stick from supporters, but in the times I have seen her run the lines, she has always been good and VAR has simply confirmed that.
The rest of the first half was painful to watch and we were lucky it was not a more competent team than Brighton that we were facing.
Halftime came and when the teams re-emerged there were two changes. On came Walker-Peters in place of Romeu, with Højbjerg moving to midfield and the Spurs loanee taking his place at right back. The other change was a straight forward swap of Adams for Obafemi. The changes had an immediate effect and Walker-Peters in particular looked mighty impressive. Suddenly Saints were on the front foot. Even Jake Vokins was encouraged to join the attack, blazing a shot from distance just inches wide.
Saints were still being slow in the build-up, but now there was purpose to it and when needed they were rapidly speeding things up. One attack like this nearly brought its own reward, when several players patiently worked possession, the move getting quicker as it progressed, until it reached Danny Ings, who crashed a shot against the bar. Ché Adams pounced on the rebound and should have scored, but for some amazing last-ditch defending from Brighton.
Another move, involving at least six different players, ended with Ings crossing to Adams at the far post, with the Saints No10 and a Brighton defender ending up tangled in the back of the net, but unfortunately the ball had long gone.
Saints goal and Danny Ings 20th goal of the season came shortly after and it was a great pass forward from Ché Adams that he picked up and ran in that determined style, slotting past Ryan in the Brighton goal. 1-1 and you couldn't say that it hadn't been coming.
Such was Saints change, that I felt another goal would not be long in coming, but it was not to work out like that, for all the domination of play by the home team.
Probably the nearest we came to a second goal was from a very unlikely source. The much maligned (by me!) Vestergaard had been much improved during the second half and during one prolonged period of red and white possession, Walker-Peters crossed to the giant Dane, who controlled the ball, looked up and from fully 35 yards out sent a thunderous shot straight for the top corner. Somehow Ryan just managed to get a fingertip to it, which was enough to push it up against the woodwork and away. Astonishing shot and an equally astonishing save.
Brighton did manage the odd foray into the Saints half and it was during one of those rare moments that Bissouma, a 68th minute substitute, had a glorious chance to score, but contrived to screw his shot wide, with McCarthy nowhere.
That was the last meaningful action of the game and it petered out, with both sides probably content with the draw.
The first half was painful to watch, with Saints playing as though they had only met for the first time that morning. At least Ralph knew what to do to correct things and the substitutions of Walker-Peters and Adams turned things around. We will probably see the team finish in 12th place in the Premier League, which is way better than could possibly have been anticipated in the dark days of the early winter last year. If results go our way, 11th is just about possible, to overtake Everton, but realistically that is just about it.
Man of the Match
Really? You have to ask?
Although Kyle Walker-Peters had a storming second half, as did Ché Adams, there was only going to be one winner, once that 20th League goal rolled in. Danny Ings I salute you.