|Saturday lunchtime I sat down with my lunchtime sandwich and reached for my Match Reporting Notebook. Searching for the next blank page, I opened it at SFC 0 Foxes 9. Bugger! I had wiped that from my mind.
I watched West Ham against Arsenal where they dominated for an hour and were well worth their 1-0 lead. The next 10 minutes saw a monumental collapse as Arsenal remembered how to score and hit 3 quick goals and West Ham were beaten.
On the way back from Newport we listened to Solent with Dave Merrington stressing the importance of scoring first. By the time we got sat in front of the TV it was gone 1800 but we watched the game “as live”. Saints were unaltered since Newcastle but last season’s matchwinner, Anderson, was ill and had not travelled. West Ham, in navy, set up with Haller & Antonio in front of 2 banks of four.
Just how us supporters felt Jack, having to watch a particularly poor performance from the team
IBO Reporter : Spot51
|Sky’s commentator was Bill Leslie aided by pundit Andy Hinchcliffe. They suggested West Ham were our Bete Noir since they moved to the London Stadium. I couldn’t be arsed to check their facts. I remember regularly getting points off them when Matty was plying his trade.
On 2m Stephens brought down Antonio. The free kick was swung in and Rice headed it past McCarthy. The celebrations were curtailed by the lino’s flag who correctly spotted the scorer was half a yard offside.
Our 4-4-2 quickly morphed into a 4-2-4 when Saints went forward, but West Ham continued to look more dangerous. Antonio won a corner on 7m but Redmond cleared. A minute later Fornals met Antonio’s cross from the right and sent the ball just beyond our back post.
They won another corner before Saints eventually got one on 11m. West Ham cleared it and for a short while we saw end-to-end stuff. On 13m Bertie found Højbjerg whose cross found Long but his looping header was caught by Martin. Saints fans were clearly more relaxed as “Shoot the Pompey Scum” rang round the stadium.
A Bednarek error let in Snodgrass, but mis-control allowed McCarthy to claim the ball. The next West Ham attack ended when the ball hit Antonio’s hand. There was a brief pause while Long was down but he was able to continue. On 20m Bertie’s overhit cross eluded Cédric and went beyond for a throw. Despite there being plenty of activity, neither keeper had yet been seriously tested.
On 23m, Djenepo tracked then fouled Chilwell. With our defence expecting a cross, the ball was chipped back to Noble whose attempted volley was horribly mis-hit. Saints then built a useful attack, but when the ball reached Cédric he opted to take a long range shot and possession was wasted.
On 27m a cross into our box saw bother Haller and Antonio go sprawling under pressure from defenders. A long, nervous VAR review eventually decided against a penalty. Saints now seemed incapable of stringing 2 passes together and West Ham began to dominate the match.
At least McCarthy was dominating his box, punching the next West Ham corner away. Ings was trying his best but Redmond kept giving the ball away. When Ings was eventually played in by Long, his angle was too narrow and Martin stopped his effort. Then Højbjerg gave the ball away, fouled his opponent and got a yellow card.
West Ham’s next attack saw Antonio chase a pass, drag the ball back from the line and roll it into the path of Fredricks. His first-time ball found Fornals at the far post who cushioned his header towards Haller. The striker didn’t make a clean contact but it was good enough to beat McCarthy and go in off the post. 0-1 and a surprise to no-one...
Our last clean sheet at SMS was sometime in February and Antonio continued to torment our defence. On 42m we strung together a few passes and PEH played a one-two with Cédric but sent his header wide of the mark. Then the rejuvenated Haller tried to run through our whole team before four of ours eventually stopped him.
In the 2 added minutes before half-time, Snodgrass was carded for a “professional foul” on Bertie. For all he’d had to do, West Ham’s keeper might have spent the half dozing in a hammock strung between the goalposts.
Redmond had been truly awful, so it wasn’t a surprise to see him replaced for the second half. Djenepo switched to the left, JWP to the right and Romeu came in to play alongside our captain. Within seconds we could have been two down, but McCarthy made a superb save to deny Fornals’ effort. He then rose like a salmon to catch the resulting corner.
Saints were looking better though: Ings nearly set up Long, then we won successive corners before Ings put it wide. West Ham were then denied another goal by VAR (probably my second favourite Saints player after Ings). Antonio burst through and fired a spectacular shot past McCarthy. I was unworried as Bednarek had clearly played the ball onto the forward’s arm. Despite the bitching of ex-player pundits, that now rules any resulting goal out. Saints next attack saw JWP find Cédric whose cross was just too high for Ings.
Fredricks was booked for fouling Djenepo, then Long and Ings progressed down our right. As soon as we lost possession Antonio was haring away (again) and Bednarek only stopped him by conceding the corner. McCarthy again caught the ball when it was delivered. The hour mark passed and there was still no sign of us scoring and it was now pissing down with rain.
Djenepo was much more involved on the left and he won a corner which JWP took. The ball fell to Højbjerg, quite a way out, yet his horrible volley rose sharply at an angle of at least 60 degrees (My notes contain a 4-letter expletive at this point.).
Yet Saints were at last on the front foot, winning another corner when Long’s cross was headed behind. The cross reached Djnepo but he also sent his shot wide. The next WHU attack was seen off by Cédric just as Sky showed possession stats = SFC 62%. FFS!
Djnepo was linking well with the forwards now. On 69m West Ham managed to clear but our next attack saw Djnepo barreling down the left. His ball into Ings was good. The striker turned and crashed a shot against the crossbar. It bounced down into the path of Long who stuck it wide. Replays showed, had Long have scored, it would have been disallowed for offside.
Two minutes later Ings hit the woodwork again. This time he was flagged offside but the replay showed he was well onside. Had the ball gone in (like West Ham’s had) it would have stood. Close – but no cigar.
Yarmalenko replaced Snodgrass on 73m. Then Fredricks brought down Djnepo, only for the free kick to go to the defender. But Saints kept coming and, as Fredricks tried to bring the ball out, Djnepo and Yarmalenko tangled on the edge of their box. The ball broke to Ings and he fired a sweet shot past Martin into the far corner.
Celebrations were short lived, as Atkinson gave West Ham a free kick. It was definitely not for anything Ings did so, presumably, the ref didn’t like Djnepo’s challenge on Fredricks. Anyhow, that was as good as it got for Saints.
West Ham went straight up the other end and almost killed the game. Another fantastic save by McCarthy saw Haller’s header turned away. Then the big striker set up Yarmalenko who scooped his shot over. That was Haller’s final contribution, replaced by Sanchez.
Saints were still trying and Stephens carried the ball forward. The ball was worked to PEH whose cut back was perfect for, sadly, Stephens whose sliced shot went well wide. Damn and blast! On 83m Ings tried to beat the whole West Ham side but they were able to halt him by sheer weight of numbers. A minute later Armstrong replaced Long. Saints kept trying and a nice move set up Højbjerg, but his effort sailed wide. The final changes saw Adams on for Cédric and Diop for Noble.
Djnepo was brought down by Balbuena with a minute left. We’ve seen JWP score from here in recent weeks but this time, although his shot beat the wall, it hit Martin at perfect catching height. Arse!
The final 4 added minutes looked like a re-enactment of the Alamo in West Ham’s box with Saints desperately trying to equalise. The most they achieved was a further corner but West Ham held out. Martin was booked for time wasting and then needed treatment after hurting his leg.
As we entered the 97m, Hinchcliffe gave his MoM to Antonio and the ref blew for full time. Our back to back wins had been followed by back to back defeats and this Midwinter is very, very Bleak...
Man of the Match
Only two Saints were anywhere near being contenders and it might have been 3 had Djenepo started as he finished.
For the first time in weeks a Saints keeper had looked decent – playing for us too, not Celtic. McCarthy kept the score respectable when it threatened not to be. But the all-action performance from our #9 was all the more exceptional considering those around and behind him were, in the main, shite. My one regret about the last 18 months is that I’ve been unable to watch Danny Ings in the flesh. That man is a proper footballer.