Everton Away Lost 3 – 0
Three games in less than six days isn’t unheard of at holiday times, but the game has changed since that was similar to the regular Easter timetable, and it’s not surprising that Saints had to manipulate their squad to cope with the Christmas and New Year schedule foisted on them, and them alone. The approach tended towards including the better players for Spurs and Everton, and hoping for the best against West Brom – well that didn’t work, and with the priceless benefit of hindsight, we may have done better by conceding that Spurs are better than Saints, and we know we never win at Goodison. The manager was damned whichever choice he made, but a decent looking line-up on Merseyside suffered an early blow when Soares went headfirst into the barriers in the 5th minute and had to be replaced by Stephens for a Premier League debut that he must have thought would never come. At times Stephens looked like a centre back trying to play on the flank, but despite the eventual outcome, he and the team generally did alright. They even had the ball in the net when Rodriguez threw himself at Ward-Prowse’s cross, but replays showed that he used his hand after Robles’ fingertips took the ball away from J-Rod’s head, and he was offside anyway. Early in the second half, Saints were looking to get on top, but there were too many crosses coming from Coleman overlapping down his side’s right: I don’t know whether that was the fault of McQueen or those in front of him, but I do feel that last year’s management would have addressed the problem. Of course the Koeman brothers are now in charge of the opposition and they made what was to be a crucial move after an hour when they introduced Valencia; Saints, to their credit, made a positive substitution of their own by bringing on Boufal, and they soon created their best opportunity to take the lead when Redmond got clear, but Robles got his angles right – and his team were soon to go upfield and break the deadlock themselves. Inevitably the source was a Coleman cross which was met by a downward header from Lukaku that Forster did exceptionally well to kick away, only for the loose ball to fall eventually to Valencia at close range. The game was now in its final stages but chances of a equaliser went when Yoshida made an unnecessary foul challenge on Valencia and Baines converted from the spot. Thoughts had already turned to how to get back to Lime Street when Stephens passed the ball out to Fonte, who promptly lost possession and the defence were in no position to stop Lukaku, who admittedly finished in style – that’s more that can be said for Rodriguez who somehow managed to shoot wide when set up by Boufal.
LSSC Man of the Match: James Ward-Prowse, despite a first half caution.