IBO Reporter : Spot51
|Saints were unaltered from last week and West Brom made just one change, Robinson was rewarded for his brace at Chelsea with a start with Ajayi dropping to the bench. Looked as though Sam was going 4-4-2 to match us up.
In the Studio the Sky pundits were Carra and Kevin Campbell, a survivor from WBA’s “Great Escape” when they became the first team to stay up when bottom at Xmas. With former Baggie, Don Goodman alongside Bill Leslie on the gantry it was a very partisan “Homer” line up.
Carra talked sense about Sam’s rescue acts. He doesn’t just improve the teams he takes over by coaching, he brings in better players. To help make his team defend better he has Yokuslu and Maitland Niles sat in midfield protecting those behind. West Brom don’t concede many now. Kevin Campbell suggested Ings would be mad to leave Saints as he would not get much game time at a CL club and he’d be better off playing every week for us.
It was a dry but cold night as the teams took the field, both wearing their “home” kits. After 2m silence for Prince Philip and taking the knee, Stu Armstrong kicked off. West Brom were at it right away with Saints committing a number of early fouls.
From a free kick swung into our box, the ball fell to Phillips who played it back in first time. Diagne headed it past Fraser but the flag went up. Replays showed Big Jan was playing him onside but VAR supported the lino and disallowed it. Turns out Bartley, who was offside, was in the way of their silly lines and they were therefore obliged to support a clearly bad call. Gave the Baggies-loving pundits plenty to bitch about.
West Brom continued to attack and we were falling back before them. Bednarek headed out for a corner which they wasted but we could not get out. Townsend fired a low, left wing cross which Robinson turned just wide of the near post.
With 10m gone we finally mounted an attack. KWP (probably our best attacker on the night) beat his man and drove into the box. Instead of looking for a team-mate he blasted the ball from an acute angle and Johnstone parried it behind. JWP’s corner was cleared as far as Theo who met it well enough but sent his volley wide of the mark.
West Brom were straight down the other end, Townsend forcing a decent save from FF. The left back also came close moments later when Yokuslu found him in the box but the ball ricocheted off his groin and over the bar.
It was all West Brom and our defending looked panicked at best. They won a series of corners but Fraser was only called into action to grab Pereira’s header. Don Goodman was still bitching about VAR.
For a few minutes, Saints actually got to play in their half without troubling Sam Johnstone. Then, on 28m, Pereira played in Diagne who should have scored. We got lucky again as the striker stuck it wide. A minute later, Johnstone finally had to do something. Theo found Armstrong who drew a good save from the Baggie’s keeper. Then he got lucky as Saints worked a short corner. Bertie drove the ball into the box and the ball deflected goal-wards – right into Sam’s gloves.
Suddenly, West Brom were breaking up field with Maitland-Niles sending Pereira into our box. Fraser was quickly off his line but missed the ball and scythed the Brazilian down – nailed on penalty. Pereira hit it hard down the middle as Fraser dived to his right. 1-0 to the Baggies.
Just a couple of minutes later, a stray back pass from Ings was collected by Diagne who sped down the wing. They say centre-forwards are the best crossers of the ball and, sure enough, the big striker picked out Matt Phillips at the back post who fired it past Fraser. 2-0 and they were cruising.
On 37m Armstrong and Ings worked an opening but then played the ball behind Walcott before JWP was booked for fouling Pereira. Saints were now getting some possession but with no discernible end product. Up the other end, Yokuslu fired over and, as we entered added time, West Brom were winning everything in midfield. In the 2 added minutes we actually won a corner but they, of course cleared it. Half Time, 2-0 and we were lucky to have nil. Ralph looked furious!
Half time was all about slagging off VAR so I put Sky Q on hold and fed the dogs. Found a bottle of Nastro Azzurro in the fridge. Don’t usually drink in the week but I was not prepared to watch this shite without help.
Surprisingly, there were no changes in our line-up. Saints won an early corner but, every time the ball went into their box, Bartley headed it away. West Brom no longer seemed intent on attacking and looked happy to let us have the ball then hit us on the break. On 51m KWP again cut into their box but his low drive was nowhere near Ings, the only attacker in there. We won another corner: Bartley headed it away.
On 55m Ings was fouled left side of their box, JWP was over it but Bertie played it in and West Brom cleared. We won another corner; they cleared their lines. On 61m, Stu drew a save from Johnstone. Two minutes later, Redmond shot – wide. So much attacking – so little to show for it. West Brom looked serenely comfortable in their defending.
In a rare moment of panic, Yokuslu lifted the ball over his own bar but, of course, Bartley got the corner away. Diallo sent in a cross, Johnstone grabbed it. Then West Brom ambled forward and Diallo fouled Pereira. The Brazilian must’ve been feeling generous as he let Yokuslu take the free kick, which he sent over the bar.
Saints went back on the attack and, briefly, Big Jan seemed to be playing left wing. Should have saved his energy: in their next breakaway Robinson cruised past the big Dane to slam the ball past Fraser. 3-0 and the baggies deserved it.
Within minutes, the scorer was hooked, replaced by midfielder Connor Gallagher. On 75m Redmond shot from range – possibly the closest we came to scoring all night – but Johnstone watched it fly just over his crossbar. Further substitutions saw Robson Kanu on for Diagne and Adams replace Walcott.
Armstrong put a shot wide before play was held up whilst Maitland-Niles was treated following a nasty fall in our box. The Arsenal man was eventually able to continue before 3 more substitutions took place. The impressive Bartley was replaced by Ajayi and Ralph brought on Tella and Djenepo for Ings and KWP.
Djenepo played like a man seriously pissed off that he had not started. On 81 minutes Redmond won the first corner since Bartley had left the pitch. Good news – Big Jan won the header – bad news, he stuck it over the bar. FFS!
In the 6 added minutes, Djenepo caused West Brom more problems than they’d had all evening. He won a string of free-kicks and even a penalty when Townsend brought him down. Johnstone, recently called up by England, is one of the best young keepers around. JWP struck the ball hard enough but at an easy height for a keeper who’d dived the right way. Bugger!
Moments later there was another foul on Djenepo in a position from which JWP often scores. Not tonight – his kick flew over the bar to cap a truly rotten night for Southampton. 3-0 and Easy!
Goodman selected Maitland- Niles for MoM and there were another dozen from West Brom in the queue before any of ours. We were really poor. Even Big Sam doesn’t expect his team to stay up but, if they play like that in their last 7 matches, they’ll frighten a number of teams currently in the top half. Saints can give up all hope of finishing up there and focus on eking out a few more points. Surely, we can beat Fulham…
Man of the Match
We were woeful. Even the energetic Armstrong wasn’t able to inspire his colleagues and Djenepo’s late cameo didn’t deliver the consolation it promised. We were completely outperformed by a group of players sent out by the much-maligned Big Sam. His team were better than us all over the park and were slick in their passing and movement. Didn’t look like “Hoofball” to me.
None of the away team merit my MoM award this week. Instead, I’m giving it to the man who did most to keep the score down. Well done, Kevin Friend!