Stoke Away Won 0 – 1
It seems that the only thing rarer than an unchanged Southampton team is a Bazunu clean sheet, but we were treated to both at Stoke. There was more ‘we won’t change our methods’ talk from the manager in the build-up but the evidence on the pitch suggests the opposite. I don’t have the stats to back me up, but there seemed to be fewer passes to get the ball forward (and to some effect!) against Leeds, and now in this game, lumping it forward out of danger wasn’t a prohibited ploy. Sure, they still muck about at the back more than worried fans would like, but it seems everybody does that now, and somehow in these last two games we’ve managed to kick out the unforced errors that have cost us dearly thus far. It helped that injury-hit opponents weren’t up to much but it takes two to record a clean sheet, and credit the Saints back line for protecting Bazunu’s goal – but could we max out with a score of our own? On 41 minutes, Stuart Armstrong’s lateral run on the edge of the penalty area appeared to end with lost possession but referee Bell was on Southampton’s side when he awarded us a free kick in a promising position, even if there wasn’t a lot of confidence when Armstrong (S) and Manning stood over the ball. Armstrong‘s shot, though, went over the wall and under the bar – not Channon’s canon from back in the day, but definitely out of the Ward-Prowse or LeTissier play-book. Early in the second half Stuart Armstrong had an opportunity to double the lead with a downward header that was somehow deflected over and then Sulemana shot too close to Travers when he had a clear sight of goal. Mara, surprisingly preferred to Adams off the bench, completed a hat trick of team missed chances and of course there was always a concern that we would eventually be made to pay. Thankfully Bazunu saved well from Burger and he now seems to have learned to push the ball away from trouble and not parry it back into the danger area, and then the manager played with fire by bringing on Holgate just before the game moved into ten minutes of added time. They had just about expired when Saints seemed to have killed the game by forcing a corner in front of the visiting fans but a goal kick was given and added, added time allowed the Potters one last attack, but it too was repelled and the points were coming south.
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:
35. Jan Bednarek who headed most crosses away.
21. Taylor Harwood-Bellis who seemed to deal with most of the others.
17. Stuart Armstrong who ultimately made the difference.