|Coming into this game it didn't really look as though there was that much to play for, would Saints finish 11th, or 12th. That did not take into account the personality of Ralph Hasenhüttl, who just does not know when to give up. The form the team has shown during this 9 game restart just shows the level of planning and thought the man has put into things.
The game was eventually won at a canter, Saints having looked very suspect at the back in the early stages, but Sheffield United just plain wilted as the second half wore on.
Ché Adams looked very impressive and his confidence seems to have very much returned. Next season, with a healthy partnership of Ings and Adams things are looking bright. Kyle Walker-Peters proved once again, that we really need to sign him permanently and to be honest Pierre-Emile Højbjerg wasn't missed today, although we clearly need to replace him. One negative was the injury to Jan Bednarek, which meant we had to see Vestergaard demonstrate exactly why we need to move him on, as he made mistake after mistake, but such were the attacking limitations of Sheffield United, that we were only punished the once.
So, sign KWP, a new central defender and work out what we need in midfield. The last position might not be quite so crucial, as Will Smallbone came on to replace an injured Stuart Armstrong and gave a good account of himself for the rest of the match. Together with a returning Harrison Reed, they might just be enough.
Ché Adams scored two extremely well taken goals (This was the second)
IBO Reporter : channonite
|For the last of the "Project Restart" games, Saints chose to debut their 135th year anniversary home kit for the 2020/21 season, featuring a red shirt, with a white diagonal stripe, in a nod to some of the earliest club kits and it definitely looked very smart indeed.
Normally, for an end of season game featuring two mid-table sides, you would expect a less than competitive encounter, but not in this case. Both teams came out of the starting blocks with all guns blazing. Saints attacked the Utd goal, with Ings going down inside the penalty area, but the referee was having none of it. Quick as a flash, the play switched to the other end with Billy Sharp turning Vestergaard with ease and leaving him for dead, looked absolutely certain to score, with only McCarthy to beat. Somehow the Saints goalie managed to spread himself enough to block a weak shot from the striker. A major let-off at this early stage.
Sheffield United looked likely to score every time they went forward and before the half-hour mark they scored a remarkably soft goal. A cross from the Saints right managed to go right between Vestergaard's legs and found it's way to Lundstram at the far post and he calmly slotted past McCarthy. 0-1. Dismal. Was it going to be another poor home performance then? Certainly looked that way.
Shortly after the goal, Armstrong seemed to injure himself while turning quickly and had to go off, being replaced by Will Smallbone. This was rapidly going from bad to worse.
United almost doubled their lead when, once again, the Saints defence was caught flat-footed and Sharp and Lundstram played a one-two, with the latter crashing a shot goal wards, which McCarthy did very well to parry away.
Still, we got to half-time without any further damage done and Ralph would have a chance to sort things out.
At the beginning of the second half it very quickly became apparent that both Bertrand and Walker-Peters were playing much further forward and that paid dividends almost immediately. The pressure from the two full backs caused not a little anxiety in the Sheffield defence and they got themselves into a bit of a tangle. Before you had time to blink, Smallbone had pinched the ball and threaded a pass through to Ché Adams, who, turned and shot past Henderson for the equaliser. 1-1. Outstanding work from Adams and amusingly it caught out the Sky commentators, as they didn't at first realise that the ball had gone into the net. The replays looked even more impressive, as you realised just how fast Adams had reacted.
Saints immediately looked more comfortable and played some nice approach work amongst several players, culminating with Smallbone curling a shot just over the bar. There were going to be more goals in this game.
It nearly came at the other end, when McCarthy collected the ball from a failed Utd effort and in an almost carbon copy of the howler against Arsenal, passed straight to the feet of Billy Sharp. The fact that it wasn't a goal was down to a finely judged sliding tackle from Romeu, pushing the ball against McCarthy's legs, which then bounced harmlessly away. What on earth was McCarthy thinking of?
The game was still being played at a frenetic pace in the Summer sunshine, when the excellent Walker-Peters (I have said that a lot about him since the restart) set off on a run, wide on the right, before cutting inside to shoot. That was blocked by one of the defenders, but once again Ché Adams was on hand to pinch the ball off the defender, swivel and shoot past Henderson. 2-1. The speed of thought from Adams was truly impressive. The thought of a strike force of Adams and Ings together next season is a tantalising one.
Saints final goal of the afternoon came when, in another impressive attack, featuring another mazy run from Nathan Redmond, who squared to Danny Ings in the penalty area. Unusually Danny took three, or four touches to gain control, by which time no fewer than four defenders were on him and he was unceremoniously scythed down. The referee was ideally placed and pointed straight to the spot. Penalty. Danny Ings stepped up and there was no repeat of the stuttering run-up in the missed penalty in the Bournemouth away game last week. This time he struck the ball firmly and it fair flew past Henderson to wrap up the points and his 22nd goal of the season, with just six minutes of normal time left. 3-1. Danny was still in with an outside chance of the Golden Boot, but was running out of time.
Ralph chose to take double goal scorer Ché Adams off and replace him with Shane Long for the last five minutes of the game. With Michael Obafemi replacing Oriol Romeu in time added on.
With that, the game petered out and Mr Bankes blew his whistle. The 2019/20 Premier League season was over at long last, having begun 11 long months ago.
|Well, this has been an unusual season to put it mildly, with the low point in my mind not being the oft quoted 0-9 game, which I endured to the bitter end, but the following home game against Everton, which although on the face of it, was only a 1-2 loss, but was such an abject display, that I did leave before the final whistle.
The club has worked hard since then to put things right and clearly Ralph and his team have worked tirelessly through the lockdown to great effect. Since the restart they have played 9 games, won 5, drawn 3, lost just the single game. At the same time they have scored 16 goals, while conceding 8, giving a goal difference of +8. That is an impressive tally of 18 points. That impressive set of stats puts them behind just Manchester City and Manchester United and a point in front of Liverpool, with a superior goal difference. That is very impressive indeed Ralph!
This last match was a perfect illustration of how they have changed, with little to play for, they harried and eventually ground down a Sheffield United side with a reputation of having a rock solid defence. Scoring three goals. What a difference from those dark days in the Autumn of last year.
Man of The Match
|There were several candidates, from Walker-Peters, marrying attack to defence, which is something our right backs haven't really managed for several seasons, to Redmond, who is at last producing an end product, to Oriol Romeu who has got better and better during these final 9 games, to James Ward-Prowse, who is a real leader now and, of course, Danny Ings who was excellent as always. All worthy candidates, but for two moments of lightening brilliance I am giving my final MoM award of the season to double goal scorer, Ché Adams