West Brom Home Lost 1 – 2
Saints are again bemoaning the effect of too many games in too few days, but this time the problem was not the fault of European commitments but the TV companies’ decision to switch the Boxing Day game to the middle of the Twixmas period. That left a tired squad to face West Bromwich on New Year’s Eve, and manager Puel decided that most of his defence deserved a day off for this one. Of course Van Dijk has always played, but we’ll now have to do without him after a disastrous last fifty minutes were topped by the star player being given a second yellow card that could easily have been a straight red anyway. The game had been following its expected pattern with Saints enjoying their usual lion’s share of possession without often looking like turning it into the only statistic that counts. Then on forty minutes, the totally unexpected occurred: not only a Saints goal, but one scored by Shane Long with a sharp header from Tadić’s corner. This was now looking quite good – a goal up against unambitious opponents, and with half time approaching. Complacency, though, is always dangerous, and the team were unable to retain the lead for two minutes, never mind until the interval and then on to the end of the game. The Baggies’ equaliser wasn’t the prettiest, with the ball rather bouncing off players around the edge of the box before it fell to Phillips who finished nicely. West Brom had a single rotation ploy in their team selection as they gave Robson-Kanu a first start for the club, and he reminded the world of his Euro 2016 exploits with a simple crossfield run that took him away from the entire Saints defence, allowing for a powerful shot into the top near-side corner of Forster’s net. The Welshman had been included ahead of Rondón and eventually he made way for his team-mate on 72 minutes. By now the visitors were looking the side more likely to score anyway, as they may well have done had Van Dijk not made his final contribution – a rugby-style challenge on Rondón as time was running out anyway. It was a tame end to the first half of the season after the win at Bournemouth had suggested something better, but again the real losers were the fans who were expecting more than the one shot on target from 68% possession.
LSSC Man of the Match: Steven Davis, again. Usually a go-to guy for MotM, and it certainly wasn’t going to be poor old Virgil on this occasion.