Fulham 1-1 Saints
The Mayuka experiment has now ended, as the player found himself back on the bench at Fulham, and not even involved in any warm-up exercises to get him fit for the African Cup of Nations. Instead, Saints went out with just Lambert up front and Steve Davis bolstering the midfield in a more cautious approach.
With a strong wind and heavy bursts of rain making defending difficult, other tactics did suggest themselves, and indeed the home team could easily have been three up in the opening 15 minutes: Sidwell shot narrowly wide after Saints had given away possession, and Berbatov would have expected to have done better with a header. In between, they did take the lead, with Davis unable to handle Riether’s driven low cross that was difficult in the conditions, but not unplayable – Berbatov had the simplest of finishes as the ball fell his way.
Slowly, though, Saints pulled their way into a game that had threatened to go very sour, and in the second half they were manufacturing a few half chances of their own. Southampton waited until 78 minutes before changing their starting eleven, but Ramirez had been tried in a number of roles, none of which really worked for him.
Eventually we had to rely on home-grown talent (admittedly one sold in the financial crisis) because Chris Baird provided a lifeline with a peculiar hand ball from a corner. Lambert seemed unfazed by Hangeland earning a caution for interfering in his preparations, and he duly converted from the spot despite Schwarzer getting a strong hand to the ball – the cascade of water from the soaked netting as the ball found its way into the top of the goal was proof of success.
Saints looked keen on a big finish and Schwarzer had to recover well after his parry left Ramirez’s shot still going towards goal. In fact it was Fulham who came nearest to a winner, with both Sidwell with a shot and Hangeland with a header going close, but both sides seemed to recognise a fair result at the final whistle.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jason Puncheon, who was behind most of our good work when things were still looking difficult.