West Ham 1-1 Saints
The entire squad remained unchanged for an important visit to West Ham, so Guly started again and there was no reserve goalkeeper. That suggests that the manager agrees with me that this was a game to win rather than prevent defeat, as we are unlikely to be denied promotion by the Hammers.
However, you still have to get the ball in order to profit from attack minded players, and that was looking difficult early on, with Davis saving brilliantly in the opening exchanges and Hooiveld escaping unpunished after what TV showed to be a pretty blatant handball in the six yard box. Then everything changed in the 18th minute. What happened was at the other end of the pitch, but the view from the visitors’ stand, abetted by various other media reports, suggests that Sharp fouled Noble to concede a penalty awarded by the linesman.
Sharp made off to lead the obligatory verbal assault on the official, but was thwarted by a push from behind by Taylor. A dramatic fall left Premier League referee Probert with no alternative but to dismiss the defender, and despite Noble converting from the spot, all of a sudden Saints were in with a shout. West Ham continued on top, although Saints ought to have evened the game up on 34 minutes when Green parried Lallana’s shot to Sharp, but the big signing could not beat the prone keeper.
Sharp was also on the end of a scintillating move, but he couldn’t get a much more difficult finish on target, so it remained 1-0 at the break. Southampton vie with Brighton as the best equipped of all Championship teams to exploit a man advantage and once Puncheon appeared, they managed to take control of the game. A let off came at the other end when Faubert almost punished slack defending by Fonte and Davis, while poor final deliveries frustrated our team around the Hammers’ box.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jos Hooiveld, with the goal probably swinging it his way. Good job no-one saw the handball.
However, Hooiveld was eventually in the right place to equalise from close range and set Saints up for a potential big finish. The introduction of Connolly for Richardson suggested that they were prepared to take risks, but then Hammond replaced Sharp in a contradictory move, and the evening eventually ended with the chasing Championship pack being the only winners, literally and figuratively.
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