Blackburn Home Won 4 – 0
Downes returned to face Blackburn at St. Mary’s while Aribo and Edozie had done enough to keep their places; the same wasn’t true of Manning, omitted as Bree came in at right back, KW-P moving to the left once more. Looking at the visitors’ line-up, it appeared that the only task facing the home defence was to keep Szmodics quiet and Saints set about that in the usual way, by denying the opposition much possession. Doing something with the ball ourselves is a familiar problem, though, and it seemed that the closest we would come in the first half was a shot by Stuart Armstrong that didn’t quite curl enough to fall inside the post with Wahlstedt beaten. Then, just before the break, Bree came over to take a left side corner and somehow the ball ended up in the net; I suspected an own goal, but Edozie turned away to celebrate and video evidence confirmed not only his touch but also that it was deliberate. Southampton’s prospects improved considerably in the 55th minute, but not by their own efforts; after an innocuous foul in midfield, Brittain, who hadn’t been involved in the action, kicked the ball way, not just a few yards, but down the end of the pitch. A stupid yellow card, but particularly dumb when you’re already on a caution, so that was the end of Mr Brittain. Playing against Russball with a full complement requires considerable application, although plenty in this league are capable – doing so a player short causes many more problems, and Rovers weren’t up to it. On 64 minutes Downes found the space to surge forward and when he was upended, Stuart Armstrong was on hand to glide the ball home. Forensic examination of replay evidence suggests that Downes might have been guilty of ‘simulation,’ and that could have led to a second booking for him, but it didn’t happen and Saints were effectively home and dry. Manager Martin used up his full quota of substitutions, including a return for Stephens while Mara and Alcaraz were also able to enjoy the closing stages. When Mara was tripped for a clear penalty, Alcaraz stepped up to attempt a ‘Panenka’ that ended up as one of the worst spot kicks seen on the ground, Harry Kane’s back-of-the-stand effort notwithstanding. Mara wasn’t done as he was able to convert Fraser’s low cross in the 97th minute and with eight minutes added time having been advertised, it would have been a good time to leave. Anyone doing so would have missed the fourth goal in added-added, scored by Alcaraz, pouncing on the loose ball after Wahlstedt had done well to stop Smallbone’s well hit shot.
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:
16. Will Smallbone – on for the full 99 minutes, making the most of it to contribute a late assist.
17. Stuart Armstrong – an attacking threat throughout his76 minutes on the pitch.
23. Sammy Edozie – can now be regarded as a goal machine. 65 minutes game time for him.