Crystal Palace Home Drew 1 – 1
Southampton were at full strength to face Crystal Palace at St. Mary’s… well sort of full strength, with more outgoings than incomings during the winter transfer window: not surprising as the total of incomings ended up as zero. This fits Ralph’s stated strategy of having a core squad of fewer than twenty players, supplemented by the youth team – a risky ploy, with three suspensions already incurred during the coach’s reign, and one young player now having to be a regular starter. It also leaves us with few innovative options from the bench, something that became apparent in this game. The visitors stuck to a very disciplined defensive plan, knowing that as long as they kept Redmond quiet, Saints were unlikely to come up with any surprises. After a half mostly spent in the middle third of the pitch, Palace finished the period strongly and when Kouyaté got away from Targett, and with referee Marriner poised to blow for a foul on Townsend, the ball ran to Zaha who fired home inside McCarthy’s near post; even if we can’t sign any more players. maybe investing in a goalkeeping coach to rectify this recurring weakness in our stopper would be money well spent? So what could Ralph do with his team now chasing the game? Nothing, until Valery made way for Armstrong after over an hour’s play, with Ward-Prowse moving to right back and Targett adopting a deeper role to accommodate Armstrong – nevertheless it was Palace who looked more likely to score and Bednarek did well to head away after a corner spelled danger. There seemed to be an intent to play down the left, leaving Ward-Prowse clearly frustrated on the right, but whether by plan or design, things worked out for the good when another left side move freed Targett who crossed for Ward-Prowse finally to get involved and sidefoot home. J W-P was involved again in the game’s next major incident, surely expecting to be carded for a push on Zaha but instead winning a throw, to his opponent’s obvious disgust. Zaha needs a course in anger management as he reacted not only to Ward-Prowse, but also to Mr. Marriner who added a second yellow to the one he was showing anyway. Elyounoussi was on for Vestergaard and Slattery now replaced Ings, but as neither made any positive contribution, it was the ten men who came closest to breaking the deadlock – and by any reckoning, a point was all Hasenhűttl’s depleted squad deserved.
LSSC Man of the Match: James Ward-Prowse who has gone from fringe player to key man in a few short weeks.