West Ham Home
A win against West Ham left Saints undefeated in five Premier League games, and also with a run of four home league wins. Both sequences were achieved without a goal conceded and mostly with variations of a back three or five, depending on how you interpret the role of the wide players. Targett had featured in most, but he was now injured, meaning a return for Yoshida – this would be interesting as Forster hasn’t let in a goal since March 2015, while Yoshida always seems to have a fatal error in his game. The visitors had trouble coping with Ronnie’s chosen formation early on with Adrian clawing away a header from Soares and then Wanyama threatened a rare goal before his blocked shot fell to another unlikely character in Yoshida, who notched his second goal of the campaign: that sound you could hear when the cheers subsided was that of first scorer betting slips being torn up. Then Southampton hit problems as they adapted to a back five with the Hammers forced to commit more players forward – the trouble was that we also had three attacking players in Mané, Long and the returning Pellè, leaving Clasie and Wanyama facing overwhelming odds in midfield. You expected the newly-crowned Manager of the Month to put things to right at the interval, but any cunning plan was soon thwarted by a bad foul by Wanyama on Payet that brought an instant dismissal. This was the third time the Kenyan has been sent off this season, all for similar challenges, but this was the first straight red as he had obviously overlooked the presence of ‘celebrity’ referee Clattenburg. On came Romeu, who was unlucky to have been left out, with Mané sacrificed to the bench – itself an odd decision as Pellè seemed to be struggling to come to terms with the game and eventually made way for Austin. They say it’s never easy to play against ten men, but Saints were put under quite a siege and by the end every long clearance into touch was acclaimed like a winning goal. Having said that, Forster was relatively untroubled between a blinding first half save and a bizarre near own goal by Soares right at the end – the heroics were all coming in the trenches in front of him. Long and Austin did have chances to make the win more certain but this was a bit of a steal and to my mind a less than satisfactory performance – but it’s only a few weeks since we managed to lose at the Boleyn Ground despite being the better side.
LSSC Man of the Match: Virgil Van Dijk, unfazed even by the introduction of the awkward Carroll.