Stoke Home Drew 0 – 0
Piles of snow around the pitch belied the fact that we’d moved into the meteorological spring in time for the visit of Stoke, and both sides were hoping to rejuvenate a disappointing season – for Saints, that meant a surprise start for the youthful Sims, although he has proved most effective as an impact substitute recently. As it turned out, it was same old, same old for a flagging Southampton attack that offered little in the opening period and we were lucky that the visitors weren’t much better as they failed to take advantage of situations presented to them by sloppy or naïve defending. The most obvious chance for The Potters had ended in a comical exchange of insults between Shaqiri and Diouf after they failed connect in a 2 v. 1 breakaway, shortly followed by a serious injury to Diouf and consequential lengthy delay in a most disjointed half. Stoke introduced Crouch at the interval, with good reason as Saints have a poor record in coping with radical half time changes, but the home team were to emerge the stronger side after Sims set the second 45 going by forcing a save in the opening seconds. Sims was to test Butland again later, but Southampton’s best effort came from Soares, again saved by Butland, and their worst from Boufal, on for Sims and immediately presented with a an opportunity from Redmond’s inviting cross, only to put his header wide. As ever, we seemed to be giving all options off the bench a go with Gabbiadini and Long also tried, but with no clear purpose behind the experiments as the Stoke defence eventually proved to be the game’s key unit. It’s quite possible that one or both sides will look back on this dull afternoon as a vital point gained, but it could also be that they may end up regretting missing out on a chance to bag maximum points.
LSSC Man of the Match: Not an easy call at all – should have canvassed opinion in the pub afterwards! I found one web site giving McCarthy joint top rating, which seems odd given how little he had to deal with. There’s a good case for choosing Redmond for the second successive game, but I think I might go with Jack Stephens, albeit somewhat reluctantly.