Saints 1-1 Cardiff City
Saints 1, Cardiff 1
Recent experiments with Fox at centre back forced on Nigel may have persuaded him of an early return for Fonte (complete with shorter haircut) against Cardiff. Elsewhere in the team, new acquisition Sharp was ineligible and Lee (now widely known as Tandoori Lee) wasn’t risked, but Lallana returned and the prodigal Puncheon seems to have a face that fits again.
However, Saints have lost some early season zip, and there wasn’t much to chose between the two sides early on. Referee Hayward had already shown a surprising willingness to allow robust play, so maybe it was no surprise when he saw nothing wrong with Turnbull’s wrestling-style penalty box challenge on Lambert that could have given Saints an important boost.
Equally, then, we should have been expecting the similar non-decision from him when, in the view of many, Davis was fouled at a corner before Conway put the loose ball away.
An improvement in Southampton’s play as the first half had drawn on was continued after the break and there was another loud shout for a penalty when Lallana was upended by McPhail close to goal.
At this point, it ought to be added that when watching TV replays in the less fevered atmosphere of my sitting room, the decisions no longer seem so clear cut – although I still think the ref was wrong.
It was not long before Mr. Hayward saw the light anyway, and punished a handling offence by McNaughton: Lambert scored the first home goal at St. Mary’s in 2012 from the spot. This set up a rousing finish as Miller always looked likely to snatch a winner at one end, but for some wayward finishing, while Saints came on strongly at the other. This was despite an odd interlude with Connolly in midfield and Tadanari Lee partnering Lambert, before the introduction of the more obvious Hammond left Saints on top.
Lee might have claimed a fairytale Championship debut goal and Marshall saved from Lallana just before time finally ran out for improving Saints.
LSSC Man of the Match: Rickie Lambert, who won’t be the one to make way for Sharp.
42 Puncheon (Lee – 61′ )
22 Connolly (Hammond – 87′ )