Perseverance pays off
Saints 2, Hartlepool 0
The early Easter matches left Saints needing three more wins for second place, and on paper the easiest task was to beat Hartlepool at home. Most readers are aware that things are never that simple with Southampton but the latest tinkered team (Richardson & Harding at full back, Seaborne & Stephens for Jaidi & Chaplow, Connolly & Lallana starting) should have been home and dry at half time.
When Do Prado headed home Lallana’s cross on 20 minutes, the deadlock seemed to be broken but he was judged offside. Surely a marginal decision, and faith in the referee’s assistants was low after the other official had flagged a visitor for being offside at a throw in (read the rules for why this is wrong).
Lambert squandered the best chance of the opening period, but five minutes after the break his contribution was decisive. Not for the first time, some slick passing round the edge of the box opened up the Hartlepool defence and Collins’ only solution was to stumble into Rickie for a penalty and a red card. Goal, courtesy of Lambert of course. Not just to my personal dislike, Saints tend to defend too readily when ahead and the replacement of Do Prado with Chaplow seemed to hand the initiative to the ten men. So too did some dodgy central defending and it took a great save from Davis to keep the vital lead intact.
Connolly should have sealed the game but it was a free kick in Lambert range that settled matters, with the striker sending in a surprise cross for the unguarded Fonte to head an easy second. Three more important points, but it’s still squeaky bum time.
LSSC Man of the Match: Rickie Lambert, for a goal (and he won the penalty) and an assist.
“Credit to Hartlepool, they’ve been well organised. We had to be patient to break them down but we got there in the end.
“The players were endeavouring to win a game of football out there and they’ve done that.
“We’ll be in again Tuesday from a recovery point of view, just to get the bodies ready for another massive weekend.”
06 Fonte (Martin 84)
11 Guly (Chaplow 69)
20 Lallana (Forte 84)