Sheffield United 1-0 Saints
There were doubts about the depth of Southampton’s squad this season, but we always seemed to have plenty of midfielders. However, the tough game at Burnley took its toll for the visit to Sheffield United with Davis and Hesketh now joining Cork on the injured list while Tadić apparently needed a rest. We also adopted the familiar League Cup ploy of including Gardos for Alderweireld and Taggart coming in for Bertrand, although Bertrand still got a game, on the left side of midfield. Another self inflicted change was caused by a suspension for Pellè, his latest indiscretion being to ‘help’ George Boyd off the pitch at Turf Moor as he made a meal of a substitution. BUT (and capitalised because it is a big ‘but’), the eleven that Ronnie sent out should have been more than capable of seeing off League One opposition, rather than being outplayed by them.
Forster set the tone and was lucky to get away with a failure to gather an opening minute cross, but the failure of misfiring strikers Long and Mané to make any impression at the other end was just as worrying. In a game played on a bumpy pitch and in poor weather, chances were few but Forster was the only keeper to be extended at all during a scoreless opening half. Both sides made changes at the break, with the Southampton coaches’ disappointment in the performance reflected by the introduction of Isgrove as Bertrand reverted to full back.
Whatever we were trying for wasn’t achieved as Saints were even worse in the second period and could easily have been behind before what proved to be a 64th minute winner. It came from a free kick conceded by Mané on the edge of the box, but he was by no means the only one to blame: with little protection from a disintegrating ‘wall,’ Forster could only parry Harris’s shot and the ball could have been on its way in anyway before McNulty made sure.
Forster redeemed himself somewhat with some good saves but Mané spurned his chance for atonement by failing to find the net with Southampton’s only opportunity of note. Alderweireld came on for the cautioned Wanyama, but Saints continued to rely on fancy football rather than shoving one of the centre backs up front. At least that could have kept Gardos out of trouble as he was shown a straight red card for pulling back McNulty in the last minute, while bookings for Schneiderlin as well as Wanyama will add to selection headaches for the next game.
LSSC Man of the Match: Morgan Schneiderlin – welcome back, but now it doesn’t look like we’ll see him against Everton.