Stoke Away Lost 2 – 1
Hoedt seems to have suffered a knock (surely they wouldn’t drop him?) but no matter, we have centre halves galore. Pragmatism overcame sentiment, so in came Van Dijk ahead of Stephens for his first start since January, against a team in Stoke who always pose a physical challenge for defenders; they also have Shaqiri, a classy act who forced an early save from Forster. The same player delivered the 41st minute corner that was well met by Diouf at the near post to give his side a lead that Saints had never really threatened to take. Then came Van Dijk’s big moment, his big, bad moment with a ring rusty trip on Berahino to concede a penalty; Berahino himself stepped up to take the kick, but the striker has gone a long time without a goal and he found Forster too much of an obstacle – thus the game remained within reach, thanks also to several earlier saves from the keeper. Berahino’s problems are his own, but Southampton’s lack of goals are a team thing, and their efforts to even up the game were enthusiastic but ineffective… until a bit of fortune when Long’s attempted strike fell nicely for Yoshida to score with a finish that put the strikers to shame. That should have been enough to get something out of the game, but Soares made a mistake at the other end and a passage of play when Saints couldn’t quite clear their lines ended with substitute Crouch poking the ball home. To their credit, Saints threw the kitchen sink (well, Austin, Gabbiadini and Van Dijk anyway) at a home back line that was missing the uncompromising Shawcross. It almost worked, but Gabbiadini failed to make the most of the opportunities that came his way and when Austin did get the ball past Butland, Zouma was able to clear, all contributing to back-to-back defeats.
LSSC Man of the Match: Fraser Forster, without whom the game would have been over at half time.