Saints reach Wembley!
Saints 3, MK Dons 1
The pub of choice for the discerning drinker pre-match at St. Mary’s is a victim of its own success, with the bar becoming very crowded as kick off approaches. And before the JPT Area Final, everyone in a packed room from landlord to pub cat seemed to agree that the coming game was probably the most critical of the year. Everyone except Chairman Strickland that is, so you know where to go for spare tickets as he’s not that interested. And yet… it has to be admitted that Mick does have a case. What was effectively a semi final had become more important than the final – is anyone going to lose any sleep if we fail to beat Carlisle? – and that’s because we don’t really care much about the Trophy but want to enjoy the social occasion.
Mr. Pardew gave his club every chance of progressing past Milton Keynes Dons by recalling Jaidi, Harding and Hammond as well as keeping faith with JPT ever-present Thomas and posing a threat up front with Antonio, Lambert and N’Diaye all playing. Antonio’s pace had troubled the Dons in the 1st leg and he posed more difficulties for them this time round as Saints rewarded a big crowd with an exhilarating start, aided by the new ploy of Lambert now taking all the corners as well as the free kicks. Lambert had the honour of finishing a slick move down the left that doubled the overall lead on 14 minutes, and then the team deserved their touch of fortune when Howell’s clearance cannoned back into the net off his team-mate Woodards.
Little was seen from MK as an attacking force, but every time Southampton kicked the ball out of play, it invariably ended up back in their penalty area via Stirling’s prodigiously long throws. It was from just such a situation that Randall pulled one back just before half time, the sort of ugly goal that the long throw tactic produces.
Saints were still two up on aggregate, but the second half was unnecessarily nervy. Another goal to put the matter beyond doubt would have helped everyone except the miserable 447 followers from MK, but we may easily have ended up hanging on with 10 men, as at Stadium MK, had the referee been less forgiving of Thomas’s involvement in a silly incident not long after he had been cautioned. Instead Saints immediately went up the other end where Lambert’s free kick could not be cleared and Lallana gleefully smashed home the loose ball. Cup football: you can’t beat it. When’s the next game?
LSSC Man of the Match: Radhi Jaidi. What, really? Well I thought so, although there were eminent sages of the game in the London Saints seats who thought otherwise. Certainly Jaidi’s defending isn’t pretty and at times he can be clumsy, but the only way we were going to lose was if we’d succumbed to the aerial attack from MK’s heavy bombers, and I was always confident that we would cope with Jaidi in control.
03 Thomas (James 90)
19 Schneiderlin (Wotton 78)
09 Papa Waigo