Brighton Home Drew 1 – 1
You have to assume that a professional coach who is an ex-international player should know more about the game than a bunch of blokes in a pub, but there was not inconsiderable surprise amongst my peers at Mauricio Pellegrino’s timid selection to face Brighton at home. It also asked questions about the club’s recent forays into the transfer market as the bench included a remarkable set of record signings: Gabbiadini, Boufal, Lemina and Carrillo, who admittedly hasn’t yet had time to disappoint. It all let the visitors start on the front foot, with Izquierdo missing in the opening minute and their vitality recalled the lesson handed out by Leicester at St. Mary’s. It was hardly a surprise when Albion went ahead after 14 minutes – from the penalty spot after a trip by Hoedt, the kick smashed in by Murray (who should have been spending January 31st composing his latest tax return). Southampton’s response was a familiar crab-like approach to the danger area, but the general disquiet amongst home support at half time ignored the fact that either Brighton had taken their foot off the gas, or Saints were improving as the game went on. They may even have been level at the turnaround when Højbjerg chased down Ryan to block the keeper’s clearance and could have been rewarded with a lucky goal but for the ball cannoning back off the bar. Southampton were given a boost by a double change at the interval with Boufal and Carrillo coming on for Romeu and Tadić – still not the XI many would have started with, but at least something to occupy visiting defenders. Boufal continues to frustrate as much as excite, but the potential is there and it was a foul on him that led to the equalising goal: Ward-Prowse fired the kick in low and despite a deflection off Izquierdo, the ball was back-heeled into the net by Stephens. Carrillo’s turn to get away from Dunk showed promise, and he might have done better when attempting to finish off a good run by Davis very late on, but Saints could do no better than draw despite going on to dominate possession despite that lack-lustre start – the omens had been there, with a quirk of the calendar making this a blue moon day (look it up!), and league wins occur about as often. At least the next blue moon does crop up this season, when we are West Ham on 31st March.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jack Stephens, suddenly our in-form striker.