Watford Away Drew 1 – 1
Downes was missing at Watford which meant a rare start for Aribo while Cameron Bragg was given a place on the bench, and new squad number 40 to go with it. The Hornets are known for coming up with plans for the possession game so no surprise that, after being allowed to knock it around amongst themselves for the first quarter, Saints were being put under more and more pressure as the opening half wore on. Sema had the best chance of the period but messed up a one-on-one situation by shooting straight at Bazunu, whilst an increasing number of set pieces caused problems for a defence that could have done with the ball being up the other end a bit more often. Credit to Saints management for recognising that there was an issue to be addressed and Fraser came on for the struggling Alcaraz at the break. It changed Southampton’s shape, but importantly this was in an encounter more suited to Fraser’s more combative approach. Early exchanges after the restart suggested increased goalmouth action from both teams and Watford seemed to have the better of it when Bazunu turned Asprilla’s shot past his right hand post. The deadlock was broken after 56 minutes, but at the other end, thanks to a telling cross by Fraser, a clever header at the back post by Adam Armstrong and an equally intelligent finish by Adams, who finds more time to execute his role in the Championship. Of course there was still a lot of work to be done to protect the lead, and most of the telling exchanges were taking place in front of Bazunu, but I felt confident we could see out the game, and maybe even extend the lead, despite three further substitutions after the 80th minute not really helping the cause. Seven minutes of added time seemed about right, but home fans were already drifting home before it began, and five of the seven had passed before Valérian Ismaël remembered that he had one more change left and sent on Healey with the clock now showing 95. Almost immediately a Hail Mary ball forward was headed clear, but only as far as Healey who volleyed it back to Bazunu’s left and we all know that sort of thing never ends well; sure enough the keeper managed to let the ball through his grasp for a soft equaliser that cost two vital points.
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:
2. Kyle Walker-Peters, although he wasn’t allowed too many chances to get forward.
24. Shea Charles who had an important role to play in the absence of Downes.
35. Jan Bednarek, a huge presence at the heart of the defence.