Watford Home Won 2 – 1
Boufal would surely have started against Watford, especially with Armstrong ruled out by a football-related injury, had he not become the latest recipient of the Charlie George Award for Domestic Health & Safety. Ralph obviously wanted as positive a line-up as possible against opponents likely to park the bus, but four forwards (Djenepo, Obafemi, Ings and Redmond) strung across the pitch denied any of them room enough to perform. To be fair, I thought things were improving by the break as the visitors withdrew to protect a goal lead that could easily have been more. In the opening minutes, Højbjerg passed to Sarrinstead of Bednarek but the striker obligingly shot straight at McCarthy… he was not so generous when getting away from Stephens’ ineffective challenge and scored with aplomb, and then was denied by McCarthy saving well with his legs. It was a surprise to see the same eleven set up for the second half and even more surprising to have to wait another twelve minutes before a double change: Long on, along with Boufal whose self-inflicted bruised toe was not so painful as to rule him out entirely. Both were more suited to the task than the original formation, despite Redmond having to be sacrificed, and first half chances and then full blooded opportunities began to appear. Unfortunately they also fell to Long, but his scuffed effort in front of goal from Boufal’s assist was the sort that often still finds the net; instead Foster’s fine save turned it into the bar. A better connection was called for when Ings gave him a second invitation, but another miss-hit let Cathcart get back to clear. Maybe yet another of those days? Not so, after Djenepo got to the bye-line in the box to set up Ings who continued his good scoring form: we now know that Saints got lucky with this as VAR didn’t manage to spot a touch by Djenepo’s hand that would have automatically ruled out the goal. No time to dwell on that as Capoue fouled Hojbjerg on the edge of the box and Ward-Prowse stepped up for a free kick that suited him far more than an earlier effort from some distance away – suited him so much that Foster was only able to help the ball into the top of the net. Suddenly, and despite the negative expectations of a relatively sparse crowd, Saints were winning at home for the first time in living memory, although Watford made life much more difficult in their unsuccessful bid for a late equaliser than Arsenal had done with their ultimately successful efforts a week earlier. At the end, players were hugging each other, some never having experienced a win at St. Mary’s before.
LSSC Man of the Match: Danny Ings for a goal and what should have been an assist for Long
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