Swansea Away Won 1 – 3
No surprise that Southampton were unchanged at Swansea after an imposing victory last time out, and, after dominating the Swans a few weeks earlier, no surprise that the team started on top. Only six minutes had passed, but maybe we were just beginning to worry that what was looking very easy had no end result when Saints scored – Adams had time to make the finish a formality after Rushworth had parried Stuart Armstrong’s shot. It was still easy after 20 minutes so we were worrying about ever getting a vital second when Fraser and Stuart Armstrong combined well before Armstrong’s low cross was turned in by Smallbone as home defenders failed to react. You felt a third strike would have done it, but then Ashby sent in a deep cross that Bazunu flapped away under Lowe’s challenge only for Cullen to return the ball to the middle where Paterson headed and easy goal; as we play in a VAR-free league, we can only reflect that Stuart Armstrong was offside for our second goal and that Lowe handled at a key moment in the build-up to this one. Saints would have known how well they’d been playing, so it wouldn’t have been such a demoralising moment just before half time, but what happened next must have been so for Swansea as they turned round 1-3 down after Downes struck brilliantly from outside the box on his birthday. Manager Martin sent his team out early after the break, maybe because they don’t usually seem to listen to any words of wisdom when well placed at 45 minutes. Sure enough, Paterson soon shot past the post with Bazunu beaten. No matter as Swansea’s next effort came over twenty minutes later, and it went tamely wide. By then the home side had sent on the cavalry, notably featuring veterans of many a campaign in Bolasie and Allen, while Saints had Stephens on for Harwood-Bellis, probably as insurance against a first half caution coming back to bite us. The trouble is we don’t play it around so well at the back without TH-B and sure enough we promised to be architects of at least our own setback twice in quick succession: the first was the worst when substitute Yates could only hit the post from around twelve inches, but then Paterson shot too close to Bazunu, allowing the keeper to make a fine save by knocking the ball on to a post – the other one, this time. It was a big ask for new loanee Rothwell to come on and fit into Russball so early as a Saint so the team now found it difficult to keep the ball in the area of the pitch where we wanted it to be, but time (and, frequently, the assistant’s flag) were on our side so the record breaking unbeaten run was assured, as, in due course, were all three points.
Three LSSC Man of the Match candidates to choose from:
3. Ryan Manning. Inevitably booed by his former supporters, but Swansea clearly no longer have a defender as accomplished as him in their current ranks.
4. Flynn Downes. A really good goal to work his 25th birthday, but also a return to the sort of form we know he can have in front of the back four.
26. Ryan Fraser. At times it showed that he’s lost a bit of pace, but he now makes up for that in the way he reads the game.