Saints sign off with a win
Saints 3, Southend 1
After 58 other league and cup games, the last match of the season finally arrived, but it was accompanied by much speculation on local radio about the manager’s future once it was revealed that Markus Liebherr wouldn’t be present. I’m not sure how the two are linked, especially as Markus hardly seems to be a regular – and it is hard to find anyone, either in Southampton or in the wider football world, who can see what Mr. Pardew may have done wrong in bringing home the first silverware in 34 years and producing a 7th place finish after an ill-prepared and under-strength squad had taken until October to get the net points total above zero. If that’s the view of the club as well, a simple statement to that effect would have done wonders. Still, as ever with Southampton F.C., what will be, will be.
Turning his attentions to the matter in hand, Alan Pardew gave Martin another outing, this time partnered by the experienced Jaidi, while Barnard was prevented by injury from facing his former club, relegated Southend.
Neither side found the going easy on a grey chilly day that hardly helped produce an end of season football festival, although the visiting supporters seemed to be doing their best.
Towards the end of a forgettable first half, Antonio picked up an injury that saw him replaced at the interval by N’Diaye who was promptly caught offside but did seem to be livening up the home attack: throughout the season both N’Diaye and Antonio have been more effective as impact players off the bench.
It was Southend who took the lead, though, with a rather good goal from Moussa that contrasted with the wasteful finishing of his teammates, notably ex-Saint Paterson. Within minutes Saints were level after a short corner move allowed Puncheon to cross for Lambert to head in at the near post. A go-ahead goal proved elusive, though, despite much support for substitute Wotton to lose the tag of being the only regular(ish) outfield player without a goal all season, and for the final sub Oxlade-Chamberlain to mark his second appearance with a goal. It was late in the game when Lambert stumbled over M’Voto’s challenge for a penalty that he converted himself and then Harding wisely remembered to pass back to Lallana from the edge of the area for the midfielder to score his 20th of the season – something celebrated with such gusto that you wondered if there was more that just a milestone involved.
The Hampshire constabulary that had done such a good job policing the Portsmouth fixture then contributed to a less than pleasant end of game atmosphere with repeated warnings about a pitch invasion that did more harm than good, and their message to our visitors too was quite insulting. Inevitably there was something of an invasion, notably by teenagers but also by some old enough to know better, including a fellow in a bejewelled white jump suit who I thought had died at Graceland in 1977.
LSSC Man of the Match: Rickie Lambert, the country’s leading goalscorer in the major leagues.
Alan Pardew: “The result was certainly better than the performance.
“We ticked a lot of boxes this year, but we need to tick a very big box next year, and that’s promotion.
“I’ve been amazed all year by the support we’ve had, I think they realise where the club has been.
“The staff at the club don’t want to let them down.”
39 Aaron Martin
04 Puncheon (Oxlade-Chamberlain 82)
37 Antonio (Papa Waigo 46)
38 Connolly (Wotton 63)