Huddersfield Home Drew 1 – 1
With both first choice full backs injured and Van Dijk on househunting leave, there were always going to be changes to the side to face Huddersfield, but the omission of Romeu was a surprise: I can’t believe the quality of the opposition required an extra level of tinkering and suspect that at the end of the season, the most successful sides will prove to have been the most settled. Maybe the manager is wary of the next match creeping up on him on Boxing Day, but surely we had to be putting the strongest XI out against the Terriers – indeed maybe that was Señor Pellegrino’s aim, but it didn’t look promising when Forster was at full stretch to keep out Schindler. No matter, at least we recalled the in form Austin and it was a fine striker’s close range finish that gave his side the lead on 24 minutes. Charlie’s contribution was to become the story of the game, with the main talking point, at least with the F.A.’s disciplinarians, being his challenge on Lössl that left the visiting keeper with a blooded nose. When Redmond blocked a Lössl clearance, the ball almost inevitably fell to Austin, but the Dane recovered to handle a long range effort comfortably. It was really in the second half that the Redmond-Austin pairing should have paid dividends as Redmond set up Austin for the formality of completing a swift breakaway with a goal, but the ground was aghast when the target was missed. This was crucial as Saints have forgotten how to do clean sheets and Yoshida inexplicably lost track of the bulky Depoitre who buried a simple header. Austin still had it in him to settle the game in his team’s favour after a poor clearance by Lössl, but the keeper saved a powerful effort that was Austin’s last action thanks to what seemed to be a ruptured hamstring incurred in the act of shooting. Yoshida has had a few recent bad moments to make up for, and he almost atoned with an added time header that came back off the post, thus completing a disappointing first half of the league campaign. At least the days are getting longer: according to the internet, the Southampton area already enjoys an extra two seconds between sunrise and sunset since the solstice.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jack Stephens, who has done his best with limited opportunities this season.