London Saints

Saints 1-1 Ipswich Town

I don’t usually have a lot of sympathy with professional sports players who complain at actually having to have to perform before their public, but the major leagues have tried to crowd so many fixtures into the winter holidays schedule that you can see why a lot of coaches have a different selection policy for the 3rd round of the F.A. Cup.

To the fans, though, the competition is special and we can be grateful that Ronald Koeman and Mick McCarthy both fielded strong sides for the Saints v. Ipswich tie. The visitors’ selection meant that Gerken played in the Town goal ahead of Bialkowski, and he was to deny Saints in their best move of the opening period by saving from Davis, sent clear by Tadić, and then Pellè who tried to net the rebound.

However, the visitors were already ahead by then, thanks to a looping header from Ambrose following a cross from the Saints right, and the admirable experiment of playing Ward-Prowse at full back in Clyne’s continued absence still needs more work. It was all square by the break, and deservedly so as Saints were by now dominating possession – not a picture goal, though, with Schneiderlin getting a touch to punish indecisiveness by Gerken and Berra.

In the end Saints recorded an astonishing possession stat of 71%, but they had little to show for it in terms of clear opportunities, even if one should have come from the spot after former Saints youth player Mings upended Long. Isgrove supplied a bit of impetus to a flagging team, but the absence of Mané (due to injury as much as international commitments) and Elia (still to arrive, in all probability) was felt. At least a sensible pricing policy by both clubs means an expensive month for travelling fans won’t be quite as extreme as it could have been, especially with a replay now due.

LSSC Man of the Match: Ryan Bertrand, but there is an element of just sharing out the award a bit in that selection.

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