Stoke Home Lost 0 – 1
To no-one’s great surprise, the last Match of the Day of the Premier League season failed to concentrate on the red hot battle for eighth place, and, again unsurprisingly, the crucial battle between Southampton and Stoke only just made it before the closing credits. The reason for that is that they could only find two moments of first half action worthy of broadcast: an opening minute shot from Diouf that forced a sharp save from Forster, and a mistake by Butland just before the break that left the ball at Redmond’s feet 30 yards from an unguarded net, but with the player facing the wrong way. Redmond did well to manufacture a shot that had the beating of the retreating keeper and looked as though it were sure to bounce in, but instead the lob came down onto the bar. Scores elsewhere left Saints back down in tenth place at half time, but there was no renewed energy from the players. The manager usually makes his changes on the hour, but just as he was contemplating upcoming tactics, Stoke took the lead when they managed to pit the giant Crouch against the diminutive Soares – only one winner in that headed duel. Monsieur Puel made what may be his last ever intervention from our bench, introducing Gabbiadini and Boufal for Austin and Tadić, and then later Pied for Ward-Prowse amid cries of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ – all this in front of a rare visit from Fräulein Liebherr. I suspect the last move was sheer bloody-mindedness, but the others did produce something of a spirited finish from Saints; unfortunately they found Butland in either inspired or fortuitous form as he somehow kept out Ward-Prowse and Boufal. He also saved from Gabbiadini in a situation that summed up the team’s late season form at St. Mary’s as our star striker went clear, faced only by a keeper who surely made things easier by slipping up – not so, as Gabbi fluffed his lines, in contrast to an assured finish by Austin from a similar but offside position earlier in the game. Despite this latest defeat, and fifth consecutive blank at home, the club finished eighth thanks to late goals in Wales, but I suspect that, and the prize money involved, will be of lasting interest only to whoever Katharina appoints as the new Chief Executive… we’ll have to wait and see what other changes she might make.
LSSC Man of the Match: James Ward-Prowse, again the victim of the substitution board.
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