Hooiveld clinches it in top of the table cracker!
Saints 1, West Ham 0
After performing in front of a sell-out crowd at Pride Park in a 1st v. 3rd clash, Saints came up against 2nd place West Ham and managed to break the club’s highest attendance figure by one person. I’ve a feeling there may be some headline manipulation in this, but if you were amongst the 32,152 then you’re in the record books.
What’s more, no Saints fan went home disappointed with either the result or the performance as their team soon reversed a sluggish start to ask questions of their own, and with Chaplow and Hammond ensuring that the home side retained the bulk of possession. That was the pattern of the half, with both teams enjoying periods of superiority but with Southampton’s time on top the longer lived.
Just before the break, Connolly had a shot blocked, and fans better positioned than me reported that they had thought a goal was certain – indeed it came, with Hooiveld heading home the resulting corner.
West Ham came into the game more in the second period, which is understandable given the scoreline and the talent in their squad. Saints responded with a stirring defensive performance marred only by a slip from the outstanding Fonte that let Baldock into a dangerous position, but the shot went just wide.
Chaplow’s competitive nature became a risk after a caution, so he made way for Harding. Lallana had again failed to make the team, leaving Do Prado as the chief playmaker, including a stint up front after Cork came on for Connolly, and he forced Almunia into a fine save.
Things never stay the same for long in the final stages when Nigel Adkins’ sides are in front, and the line up was changed once more by the replacement of Guly by De Ridder in the second striker role: that’s why we end up with so much added time, in this case five minutes. De Ridder might have made the last couple of them redundant as he shot home, but play was brought back for a free kick to Saints! I’ve probably given West Ham less space than they deserve for causing several awkward moments, not least in the brief period remaining, but when Davis fell on the loose ball after referee Deadman had taken a long look at his watch, their dreams finally faded and died.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jose Fonte, as we conveniently overlook his single mistake that could have proved costly. Praise must also go to Hooiveld, Hammond and Chaplow, but it was a great team performance all round.
10 Guly (De Ridder 86)
18 Chaplow (Harding 74)
22 Connolly (Cork 82)