Everton Home Lost 1 – 2
It’s been a season characterised by appalling home form and baffling team selections, and the clash with Everton was no exception. In the absences of Bertrand through suspension and Højbjerg through a concussion assessment Ralph brought back Soares to play on the left in what looked like a back four, with probably Stephens operating on the right flank; not so, as Cedric lined up as a wing back with Armstrong having the same role on the opposite side. It always seemed a desperate rather than inspired ploy, but it would have stood more of a chance had someone explained to Armstrong what he was supposed to be doing. Right from the start Saints were under pressure and from a corner we had Armstrong in the middle, being one of those who failed to prevent Holgate getting in a decisive header, and Bednarek in an unfamiliar position around the right hand post made a mess of preventing Davies heading an easy goal. Any hopes that this would goad the wounded home side into a thrilling response were well wide of the mark as a totally disjointed performance left an understandably unsupportive crowd grateful that we were up against a fairly ordinary team rather than having to relive the Leicester nightmare. With zero shots and precious little possession anywhere near the opposition goal, the team left the pitch at the interval to a familiar chorus of boos and ready to hear the management’s latest grand plan – and to be fair, there was a plan, and it did meet with unexpected success. Whether Soares wasn’t really fit, or he simply had to be sacrificed to accommodate Boufal is unclear, but that change was the result, with Djenepo now deployed as left wing back, despite having seemed completely unsuited to the position when tried there (briefly) at Bramall Lane. Boufal and Djenepo suddenly gave the Toffees something to think about and we even had an early shot after the break. Then, before you knew it, we had a goal as well, thanks to good work by Boufal on the right and a low cross that fell for Ings to tap home. Teams have been known to go on to claim an unlikely win from such a situation, and indeed Ward-Prowse drew a flying save from a free kick and there was always a hope that Djenepo or Boufal could find a vital bit of space, but realistically many would have settled for a point that would have boosted morale; it didn’t happen as Richarlison produced a fine first time finish from Sidibé’s superb cross, but the telling part of this episode was the ‘where were you?’ question gestured at Armstrong by Bednarek – yes, that dodgy team selection bit us for the second time. With his assistant seemingly not allowed technical area duties, Ralph cuts a forlorn figure on the touchline and his introduction of Adams was never likely to lift a side whose heads had dropped down to their knees. More boos at the end of yet another home defeat, but these days most people just seem to slope off home early.
LSSC Man of the Match: Jack Stephens. Well it had to be someone, as, sadly, we know they can play a lot worse than this. It’s also true that they’ll have to play a lot better to pick up points.