Saints 3-0 Everton
Quite apart from the disappointment at successive unexpected 0-1 reverses, the games at Burnley and Sheffield continue to have an effect. The on-going injury toll from the former is now limited to Hesketh and Tadić after Davis and Pellè recovered from knocks to face Everton, but Isgrove now joined them (and Cork, of course) on sickies while suspensions accounted for Schneiderlin, Wanyama and Gardos.
Apart from Mané, every available experienced outfield player was forced into action, and the manager still had to include 19 year old Reed for his first Premier League start. The extent of the crisis was even more obvious on the bench, where Kelvin Davis (38) must have thought he was appearing in the Generation Game rather than a football match, having Mané (22), Gape (20), Taggart (19), McQueen (19), McCarthy (19) and Seager (18) for company. All that explains the decision to go with three central defenders more that a desperate attempt to halt a worrying run of defeats.
An understanding home crowd were appreciative of Saints being able to match their opponents and even carve out the better chances. One appeared to be coming Long’s way just after the half hour, but his progress was halted by an ugly challenge by Jagielka. Referee Moss pointed to the corner flag rather than the penalty spot, but a corner was the least accurate of all possible outcomes from the situation; no matter, as Ward-Prowse gives us better options from these set pieces, and Lukaku rewarded a good delivery by diverting the ball past his own keeper – this to add to the two ‘OGs’ contributed by The Toffees in last season’s fixture.
Pellè had come the nearest to another first half goal on a few occasions, but he finally found the target on 65 minutes thanks to a good knock-down by Long – and with Mr. Moss’s approval after the same two players had set up a disallowed strike in the early stages. This was far more than expected from the patched up side, but there was more to come! Yoshida this time provided the finishing touch, and had he scored with a clean header rather than an off the shoulder effort, it would have been a very good goal indeed.
Gape was given the chance of a couple of minutes on the pitch before the end, while it was nice that Reed was allowed to stay on for the full ninety minutes of a debut he can be proud of – despite conceding the majority of possession, only Southampton were creating opportunities throughout.
LSSC Man of the Match: Toby Alderweireld – my last minute change of mind denies Yoshida (well, he should have scored properly). Toby is clearly our best defender, but rarely stands out as an individual.