Saints hold out for win
Saints 3, Hartlepool 2
At the end of the disappointing game with Swindon, Southampton’s over-enthusiastic match announcer informed us that the next home fixture against Hartlepool would be ‘huge.’ With the team keeping league interest alive by winning away at MKD, it was indeed still an important game, but barely 18,000 turned up – although a mind-boggling 44,000 ‘fans’ are prepared to trek up to Wembley for a Sunday lunchtime tin-pot cup final.
Wembley is special, though, and the team made a nervous showing at the start of their pre-big-match run out while Hartlepool made the early inroads. The visitors took the lead on 10 minutes when they worked the ball to Monkhouse on the right, but this was scarcely their first effort on goal. The lead didn’t last long as Puncheon headed against the bar and Barnard did well to get enough power behind his off-balance header to put the rebound home. Schneiderlin promised to break his goal drought but failed to finish as strongly as his thrust into the area, but an important half time lead was gained when Clark made a mess of controlling Puncheon’s cross – Lambert showed much more composure by taking a touch to turn through 270o before firing home from 20 yards.
Despite their league position, Hartlepool looked dangerous at all times and it was from a ‘Pools corner that Saints went further ahead. Puncheon gets nearly all the credit for racing 60 yards, holding off a challenge and beating Flinders, only to see Austin get back to make a brilliant goal line clearance. Austin’s colleagues immediately contrived to spoil that effort by gifting the ball to N’Diaye who scored from close in – thus all three front runners got their names on the scoresheet.
Austin replied within two minutes by firing home from distance, but his goal was the last of the game. Schneiderlin failed to reappear for the second half, to join Thomas, Jaidi, Lallana and Antonio on the injured list.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jose Fonte. Schneiderlin had been the first half favourite, and Hammond contributed his usual solid game, but Fonte was at the heart of a defence that coped with not only Hartlepool’s spirited challenge but also Papa’s often bizarre tackling back stints.
“We took our eye off the ball and you can’t do that.
“It’s a big game for a lot of these young players on Sunday and as much as we tried to get it out of their heads it obviously wasn’t.
“There were a lot of errors but the most important thing was that we won. The goal scorers got us out of jail.”
19 Schneiderlin (Wotton 46)
07 Lambert (Connolly 79)
09 Papa Waigo