Monday, September 20, 2004

Sou far, Sou good

A Stephen Carr thunderbolt ensured that for the first time since 1972 we returned from Southampton with all three league points. A cracking result, which has lifted us to the heady heights of 8th in the table, and seemingly set us on an upwards trajectory.

Interestingly, Souness chose to start with Kluivert and Shearer up front, with Bellamy down the right and the triumvirate of Bowyer, Butt and Jenas occupying the other midfield births.

Unsurprisingly, we seemed to lack width in the first half, with only Bellamy’s forays down the right giving any breadth to our attack. However, it was only when he scurried over to the left hand-side right at the end of the half that we were able to unlock a fairly stubborn Southampton defence, and despite Kluivert’s flick completely missing the ball, Alan Shearer was on hand to fire home, via the outstretched boot of David Prutton.

1-0 at half time then, and everything was going reasonably well. Our creaky defence hadn’t succumbed to the threat posed by rat boy and Beattie, and despite an apparent lack of creativity and width in the side we were a goal to the good.

The second half saw an increasing threat by the home side bear fruit, when once again we got caught in defence when we should have pushed out and played the offside trap. At 1-1 it was starting to remind me of so many other trips to the south coast where we’d started well and faded.

However, only a few minutes later, a free kick was awarded to us in their half of the pitch, and with the ball touched to Stephen Carr he hammered the ball into the bottom corner of the Saints net, leaving Niemi with no chance.

Southampton reacted to this by withdrawing rat boy and chucking on the human beanstalk that is Peter Crouch, and resorting to route one. However, with nobody to pounce on the knock downs we were able to close out the game and claim a very valuable, and somewhat unexpected (given the history I always consider any points gained at Southampton as a bonus), but nonetheless thoroughly deserved three points.

Souness took off Kluivert in the second half, and bought Milner on to play on the right, allowing Bellamy to play upfront, and this seemed to give us a better shape in midfield. Whether he persists in playing Craig on the right in an effort to accommodate him, Shearer and Kluivert next Saturday, or whether he brings Robert back into the side we shall have to wait and see, but I doubt Bobby would have sent out this team had he still been in charge, and I also doubt we’d have left with the win.


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