Sheffield Wednesday Away Won 1 – 2
Southampton took to the field at Hillsborough wearing the retro 1987 ‘Denmark’ kit that is no doubt being marketed as ‘much loved’: my recollection from the time is that ‘highly controversial’ would be a better epithet. Hosts Sheffield Wednesday looked very smart in their traditional stripes… just saying. No surprises in the Saints line-up, which meant a debut for Manning and no place for Lavia, and control was soon established although it was Wednesday who caused the first goal chance; good blocking protected Bazunu and it was to be a rare flaw in the Russball passing strategy. Russell Martin’s Swansea certainly had their moments with this game plan but turning possession into goal chances was hard for them and we know Saints have problems in this respect as well – but we now have Nathan Tella and his eighth minute strike found the top corner, aided by a slight deflection off Adam Armstrong, it subsequently turned out. One was enough for a half time lead that many felt should have been more, given the possession the team enjoyed (and including a Stephens effort after a corner, cleared off the line. Such concerns were borne out by an improved start to the second period by the Owls and in the 54th minute they were level: Iorfa won a far post header from a corner and the second ball fell for Gregory to beat Bazunu with a good strike, the only one on target in the whole game for the home side. To their credit, Saints re-established Russball, but although the Tella and Walker-Peters flank promised some success, opportunities in front of goal were difficult to find. The game had reached its closing stages when KW-P and JW-P combined on the right and Ward-Prowse’s low cross was neatly turned in by substitute (and former Blade) Adams. The remaining four minutes were negotiated successfully but that then left nine minutes (20%!) of added time -they passed by with barely a touch for the opposition and Saints emerged top of the league, at least for 18 hours or so. They will, though, face better teams, and others more alert to how to play against maybe the most idiosyncratic approach to Championship football around.
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:
5. Jack Stephens: best of an underworked defence, but still having to make a goal-saving interception and to take a one-for-the-team caution, as well as coming close to scoring.
8. James Ward-Prowse: the goal assist makes him the best midfielder, ahead of the also impressive Smallbone.
11. Nathan Tella: not as effective after the break but ‘his’ first half goal (despite what the stats say) was the game’s big moment.