Ipswich Town 0-1 Saints
The win at Old Trafford was a famous victory, but it came at a price: key players Alderweireld and Schneiderlin out with medium term injuries. The manager was not too pleased a week or so ago at having to replay a cup tie against Ipswich, and as it turned out, the team could surely have done without the midweek fixture after their efforts in Manchester. His mood would have got worse when he lost Wanyama to another significant injury in first half added time, but at least the players weren’t extended too much as they returned with a 1-0 success, even if it didn’t win over many new fans watching live on national TV.
The BBC’s pundits were convinced that Ronnie was trying out a new three-at-the-back formation, with Gardos, Fonte and Bernard being that trio, while Clyne and Targett were supposed to be attacking wing backs. I have to say that nicety was lost on most travelling fans, especially when Clyne was stretched a bit in the second half. ‘Stretched’ might be too strong a word, as Forster was only troubled by a tame header from Ambrose, whilst it’s hard to find anything wrong with the assistant’s decision to find Hunt offside before he netted in the 7th minute, despite what the experts may say.
The game changing moment that ensured everyone, including those sitting at home, were spared extra time came soon afterwards, when Ward-Prowse couldn’t quite take Tadić’s flick in his stride, but Smith’s block only put the ball into Long’s path for an impressive first time finish past Bialkowski (yes, our Bartie). Saints were never as decisive again, with Long, Tadić and substitute Pellè not making the most of their opportunities, but Gardos and Fonte always looked like keeping the home team at bay. In fairness to the players, the pitch was bumpy (at Portman Road! – what’s gone wrong there?) and you only realised what a strong wind there was when emerging from the shelter of the stand.
LSSC Man of the Match: Harrison Reed. OK, so it probably should be Fonte again, but I don’t want to be seen agreeing with Mark Lawrenson. Back in the studio, Terry Butcher was apparently more impressed by Long, but he might be confusing running around a lot with good play. Reed was the best of a hard-working midfield, not even taking age and (in)experience into account.