Aston Villa Away Won 3 – 1
Prior to the visit to Aston Villa Djenepo had pulled a hamstring, possibly during his triple forward roll in response to being fouled in the last outing, while Boufal’s kamikaze bruised toe continues to rule him out of starting contention: how would we get any goals in such an important game? Courtesy of a generous home defence is how. On 21 minutes, Long got away from Engels and bore down on goal; we know Long hardly ever scores (he had already missed with a point blank header) and sure enough Heaton saved his shot, but the much more reliable Ings was on hand to put Saints ahead. The team have been relying on Ward-Prowse’s deliveries as much as the prolific Ings in the first half of the season and within ten minutes a JW-P corner was met by Stephens at the near post and we turned round two up against a poor side. You don’t have to have followed the team for long to know that hardly means three points done and dusted, but when Nakamba obligingly set up Ings for an exceptional finish borne out of confidence, the finishing line felt that much nearer. It was the sort of goal that we were rather hoping Adams would have been providing, and the ex Blues striker was brought on against his former cross town rivals as Ralph made what seem to be obligatory substitutions in a bid to run down the clock, this becoming more of an issue after Grealish was allowed to chest down the ball form a cleared corner and volley it into the top corner. In fact Villa were not much better in front of our goal than they were at the back, and it was the visitors who could and should have improved on the 1-3 scoreline: first a three v. two break gave Ings the chance of a hat trick and when Heaton saved, Højbjerg missed the unguarded net; then Soares chose an ambitious and ineffective shot instead of freeing Redmond in another promising break. No matter, Saints saw out the game easily enough, rather as they should have done at Newcastle. Had Saints converted recent winning positions on our travels into maximum points, the Christmas league table would have looked much healthier – but it still shows them out of the bottom three, and that’s our aim for 2020.
LSSC Man of the Match:Jack Stephens. Certainly our best defender, but a goal to boot just edges out Ings with his brace.