Monday, January 17, 2005

Saints preserve us

Goals from Alan Shearer and Titus Bramble were sufficient to see us past a fairly poor Southampton side on Saturday – just.

The first, a penalty within 10 minutes of his return from injury, saw Shearer, arm raised, celebrating in front of the Gallowgate. The opportunity having arisen after one time target Calum Davenport hauled down Shola in the box, and the ensuing tumble saw Saints keeper Niemi stretchered off to be replaced by reserve goalie Paul Smith.

The second came after a good free kick in from Babayaro on the left touchline was met by Titus at the near post, and he was able to flick the ball past the keeper and give us a healthy two goal cushion.

However, despite a number of good chances in the first half, we were unable to capitalise on what must obviously have been a nervous time for the new keeper, and it was the visitors who finished the half stronger when Peter Crouch was the only person to react as the ball came back off the bar and he knocked it in to our net. Frustratingly for us, it was yet another example of our defence standing and ball watching when they needed to be reacting to deal with the threat of a goal.

The second half saw us lose rhythm and control in midfield, and repeatedly allow Southampton back into a game which we should have killed off long before Uriah Rennie blew for full time. Worryingly of all were the decent claims for a penalty by the visitors (following a kick on Crouch by Titus) and David Prutton's miss in the final moments which could have given Southampton an undeserved share of the spoils.

Taking positives from the game, it was a strong return to the side for Shearer, and a return by Kluivert (although he looked a lot less ready to return to the hustle and bustle of the Premiership). A strong home debut for Babayaro (including an assist) and a reasonable first appearance at home in black and white for Boumsong.

On the down side, we once again failed to kill off a side that should have been dead and buried by half time, and we faded badly in the second half to allow them back into the game.

Still, three points and a win to take to Highbury on Sunday, where we will hopefully repeat the heroics of Christmas 2001 and secure all three points.

Other reports:, Talk Of The Tyne, BBC, Guardian


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