West Ham Away Lost 3 – 0
Sky TV covered the final game, at West Ham, but on a non-sports channel, which came as a shock for those of us minimising our payments to Murdoch’s evil empire. Still a solution available: lock down all media contacts for 20 hours and tune into the re-run at noon on Monday. Was it worth it? Early indications were ‘yes’ as a line-up that included Diallo, Minamino and Redmond alongside the usual suspects looked to have stumbled upon an effective shape. Minamino’s short (I imagine) stay with us included two memorable finishes, so hopes were high when an exciting break out put him through on goal, but a chip over the diving keeper went agonisingly wide. Walker-Peters may have been marginally offside when he was foiled by Fabianski, but then on 30 minutes Saints fell behind: the best we can say about McCarthy’s effort to stop a half-hit shot by Bowen is that he prevented it going straight in… but he should have done better than a parry to Fornals instead. At this point we found that Southampton’s decent start may have been down to WHU nerves as they chased a European place, rather than tactical genius, and within a minute or so, it was 2-0 after another preventable goal: this time Salisu forgot he wasn’t a centre back and was hopelessly out of position when Vestergaard half cleared; even then Redmond could have rescued the situation but Coufal crossed for Fornals, who hardly ever scores, to notch his second. For fans, this was a game best got out of the way, and no doubt the players felt the same at heart: there was a danger of being blown apart again. As it happened, we buckled down in the second half and after an hour Ralph felt confident enough to bring on Romeu and move to a back three. But there are reasons even good sides defensively don’t often use this ploy: you can end up short on numbers. Salisu had some ground to make up before a tackle on Coufal, but he was woefully slow and managed to injure himself as well as picking up a caution for arriving late; then, in the later stages, Rice found no-one at home on the other flank and scored with embarrassing ease. Beforehand, Minamino had forced a save while Redmond rattled the side-netting – a skill he’s been practicing a lot. Ings’ contribution was mainly to kick off three times, and he was replaced by Obafemi just before the Rice goal, maybe Danny’s last Saints appearance? Referee Atkinson has been around long enough to know when both sides want the thing over and an ungenerous three added minutes had scarcely been played before he drew a line under an odd old season.
LSSC Man of the Match: Back to James Ward-Prowse. We need to mark his 38 x 90 minute league season, not to mention another 100% record in the cups.