AFC Bournemouth Home Drew 3 – 3
Yoshida was missing but Valery returned and, contrary to some reports, Bertrand was fit enough for the other flank in the fourth and final 2018/19 edition of not-the-real-south-coast-derby, this time against Bournemouth. Saints took the lead after 12 minutes, and it was no surprise as the team had started so much on top, and it was no shock that Long was the scorer, given his recent record – maybe the surprise was that it took him nearly 12 minutes longer than in the last match. There was a bit of a deflection off Ake, which was fortunate, but with the visitors not getting anywhere near Gunn’s goal, we were surely going to score sooner than later, and then just as surely go on to increase the lead. But then it happened again (yet again!): opponents broke swiftly after a Southampton attack with the defence horribly outnumbered, Gosling being the beneficiary with an equaliser; it would be interesting to know if RB Leipzig showed the same fallibility under the same coach, or if it’s just our players not coping fully with Ralph-ball. It shouldn’t have mattered as immediately Boruc’s save bounced back to Long who could almost have blown the ball over the line… but he shot against the post instead. Back at the Chapel End, Bournemouth were now posing more of a threat and astonishingly they took he lead when Gunn fumbled a deflected shot out to Wilson who showed Long how to convert an easy chance. The Cherries’ improvement could be down to an early tactical substitution that was being planned just as they scored their first, but Ralph was not to be outdone at the break, replacing Romeu with Targett, while Bertrand moved to centre defence. That may or may not have been responsible for the equalising goal, struck home truly with his weaker foot by Ward-Prowse, but Targett himself added the game’s fifth with a far post header following a good cross by Valery and earlier good commitment by Ings, who ought to have notched one himself. With just over 20 minutes left, that should have been enough as Saints were now on top, but within the last ten, Ralph brought on Armstrong for Ings, rather than the more obvious choice of Lemina. Unfortunately Armstrong was soon caught in possession on the half way line and Wilson added his second with a striker’s finish from Fraser’s cross despite the close attentions of our defenders. In this form, Wilson was favourite to complete a hat trick after another bad mistake, this time by Stephens, but Gunn atoned for his first half error by blocking the shot. So Saints finally made it over the safety line, and with a couple of games to spare, but such is the measure of the progress made in the last five months that, with the Watford game, this was a week to moan about four points dropped rather than two gained.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jan Valery whose whole world has changed since Herr Hassenhūttl arrived.