Ipswich Home Lost 0 – 1
Manager Martin gives every impression of becoming more obstinate with ‘the system’ the more he comes under pressure, and the only change to face Ipswich was enforced: Aribo in for the injured Downes, possibly because he presents a bigger obstacle than the alternatives in a fragile midfield. It meant more passing out from deep defence, but we’re not the only ones to do that; it used to be said that playing the ball across your own goal was the most dangerous thing you could do, a view that’s so twentieth century, but short passing along the vertical is still scary, and Saints just love it. In this game we saw Charles trying to dribble his way forwards when just outside the penalty area and he was promptly caught in possession by Hutchinson who ended up scoring as well from the situation he had created. There’s little evidence of Saints ever learning from their mistakes, so Bazunu threw the ball out to Aribo, in a similar position to Charles, but also facing he own goal and so faced with having to turn into trouble; this time Chaplin lobbed Bazunu but hit the bar, while Hirst panicked with the rebound. In truth, things were becoming increasingly shambolic in a half where Saints had been the better side, despite Town getting the ball in the net early, but foiled because of a foul on Bazunu. The Russball message was no doubt reinforced at half time, and Walker-Peters, still playing as a midfielder, set up Adams for an equaliser but the shot struck goalkeeper Hladky in the face instead of finding the net. The introductions of Bednarek, Sulemana and Stuart Armstrong on 56 minutes all seemed to improve the team, but the Adams chance was the only clear-cut opportunity the team created in the second period, so Saints moved into the bottom half on a night when Portsmouth went top of their league.
Just two LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from – although we weren’t that bad, I really can’t think how any of the other starters deserved it, and, for all their promise, none of the 34+ minute substitutes could change the game.
2. Kyle Walker-Peters, now being asked to play wide in front of a narrow back three.
21. Taylor Harwood-Bellis, who is having to learn that Southampton in 2023/24 are not like Burnley in 2022/23.