IBO Reporter : channonite
|The match started with a perfect illustration of why Fulham have been in trouble in the league and ultimately relegated. There was plenty of possession and flowing attractive one touch football, but they simply did not do anything with it.
Saints for their part were showing the down side of their approach work, with Adams and Ward-Prowse combining to dispossess a Fulham player, JWP then played Minamino in, who found Redmond on the left, unmarked. Unfortunately, Nathan then did what he has done on too many occasions this season, he fired a shot high and wide of the near post.
By now the bright sunshine of earlier in the afternoon had given way to pouring rain and Saints were coping better with it. The combination of Walker-Peters and Armstrong were causing Fulham problems on the right and KWP went surging down the wing, sending a lovely through ball to Armstrong, who was then unceremoniously brought down. The referee rightly showed a yellow to the offending Fulham player and awarded a free kick. Ward-Prowse sent a perfect kick right into the middle of the box, where Ché Adams blasted the ball into the roof of the net from no more than three yards out. 1-0 and not quite half an hour gone.
The play then settled down into a pattern of Fulham possession and no real threat to McCarthy's goal, followed by Saints winning the ball and racing up to the other end. It was during this passage of play that Dave Merrington said on Radio Solent (The Sky commentary was just so damned DULL) that the Saints defence was so little troubled that they had time for a nice cup of tea and some chocolate biscuits!
In one of the Saints breaks just ten minutes before halftime, Minamino was brought down, right on the edge of the penalty area and the home side had a free kick inside the 'D', probably a bit too close to goal for a JWP special. Ward-Prowse stepped up and sent a curling shot in, which was pushed away by the Fulham keeper.
A combination of Armstrong and Ings then combined to move quickly upfield, but the move ultimately broke down when Danny was forced wide and a defender gratefully headed behind for a corner.
So, we got to halftime with Saints ahead 1-0 and looking very potent on the counter, the main worry was that the defence still looked suspect at times and better teams that Fulham would have made Saints pay.
Saints started the second half on the front foot and very soon had a chance. The home side were awarded a free kick almost on the half way line, but Ward-Prowse sent in a fizzing shot that landed beyond the line of defenders, but too far from the keeper. Adams almost got on the end of it, but a defender deflected it wide.
Danny Ings was substituted just before the 60 minute mark, as expected on his reintroduction following a while out injured. His replacement was Nathan Tella and he had barely been on the pitch more than a couple of minutes before he was involved in Saints second goal, which caught most people by surprise. Armstrong went on one of his surging runs and played a one, two with the much improved (this week) Minamino, before finding Walker-Peters all alone on the right wing. The full back sent a perfect teasing cross behind the defenders and in front to the keeper. There rushing in for a straight forward side foot into the net was Tella, to score his first Premier League goal and my word wasn't he happy!
Interestingly, the first thing Nathan did was to run to the sidelines to embrace Theo Walcott, who had yet to come on. I understand that Theo has been mentoring Tella and the pleasure on both their faces was a sight to see.
One of the pleasing things to see was that Jack Stephens was playing more on the right now, when the team were in possession and he just looked more comfortable there. In turn Salisu was playing on the left and Saints just looked better balanced. On one of Fulham's rare breaks Stephens made a really important and well timed tackle just inside the penalty area, which could so easily have been a penalty if he had got it wrong.
This was the beginning of a pattern, as Scott Parker had clearly told his players to get in behind the Saints defence. Another attempt on goal was thwarted, this time by Salisu, but the warning was there.
The next Fulham attack had more success, with De Cordova-Reid sending an inch perfect pass in behind the defenders, to the 18 year old Cavaleiro, who at quite an angle, sent a shot beyond McCarthy into the roof of the net, to make the score 2-1, with fifteen minutes left to play.
Ralph responded straight away sending on Walcott for Minamino and then Diallo for Armstrong.
The changes paid off almost straight away, as within five minutes Saints were 3-1 up. From the middle of the pitch Ward-Prowse found Walcott, who played it to Adams. Ché threaded a pass through the defenders to Nathan Tella running across the edge of the penalty area. With the defenders tracking him, Nathan played a wonderful back heel to his mentor, Theo Walcott. Theo made no mistake thumping the ball into the middle of the net, with the keeper stranded on the right. Wonderful.
There was still time for the effervescent Tella to draw a save from the Fulham keeper, but the game was really over from the moment Theo scored.
Back to back wins! Who would have thought. The last home game of the season might not be so straight forward, as it is against Leeds on Tuesday next week, but there will at least be 10,000 home fans back in St.Mary's to see it.
Man of the Match
There were several outstanding performances that caught the eye, Jack Stephens, Ché Adams, Stuart Armstrong, Kyle Walker-Peters, to name but four. But it would be churlish not to acknowledge the performance of Nathan Tella, with his first Premier League goal and an assist, in a really good afternoons work, that had his manager purring in the post match interviews. Well done son.