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Saints At West Bromwich Albion The Verdict
Sunday, 4th Feb 2018 09:50

Saints won their first game in months, but had to do it the hard way after going a goal down in the early minutes showing great fighting spirit.

There were a few bemused faces in the away section at the Hawthorns when the Saints team was announed, there was no place for Pierre Emile Hojbjerg who was arguably the man of the match against Brighton and Saints most consistent performer in recent weeks, but Mauricio Pellegrino was at least showing an attacking attitude with Guido Carrillo getting his first start.

But Saints once again made it hard for themselves in a manner which is becoming all too familiar, with West Brom taking the lead after only 4 minutes, Hegazi losing his man and heading home unmarked from close range.

To their credit Saints battled hard and got a grip on the game, but for all their effort they rarely looked like getting back on level terms until suddenly five minutes before the break the game and indeed perhaps Saints season turned on its head.

Firstly Mario Lemina fired home from distance to put Saints level and then Jack Stphens atoned for his early error by heading home for his third goal in three games, Saints went in at the break in a far more buoyant move than they might have expected for most of the half.

After the break Saints clearly had their verve and confidence back and when James Ward Prowse fired home from a free kick, there looked like only being one winner.

However after complete domination of the second half Saints again shot themselves in the foot and it was another case of poor marking in the box.

But unlike at Watford when they surrendered a two goal lead, this wasn't going to happen in this game, Mario Lemina led by example in the centre of the midfield and he was helped by every other player in a Saints shirt.

This was a team performance of the highest order and the manager for once helped with some astute substitutions, with 15 minutes to go on came Long for Carrillo to defend from the front and he should have put the game beyond doubt when firstly he was denied a clear penalty when bundled over in the box and then he headed over from close range.

Then in the final five minutes Pellegrino broke the game up with a couple of changes that stopped any momentum the home side might have hoped to get in an attempt to drum up a flourish in a puzzling five minutes of injury time.

I have been saying for a long time that this is a good Saints side, but it is just poorly lead, this game showed that when they play as a team Saints can win games and can pull away from the bottom three.

This performance still had it's issues, the two goals conceded were sloppy, but the plus points in this afternoon far outweigh the minus's.

Again no one had a bad game out there, but this time we played as a team and Mario Lemina played a big part in that, he was a leader, he seemed to keep the team going not just by his physical presence but his performance, he never gave the ball away cheaply and he had the confidence to hold it and run with it even under pressue and his team mates responded in a similar fashion.

Of course this was a West Brom team who are on a run that was on a par with ours going into this game, but it was always going to be a tough ask to go here and win especially given that it was an emotional day for the Baggies and their supporters, would that atmosphere carry the day for them, the answer was no and now we have something to build on.

Hopefully now Saints can move forward, their is a spirit in the side that wasn't there a few weeks ago and indeed for most of the season, there is still a long way to go that cannot be denied and indeed one swallow doesn't make a summer, but now there is at least some light and maybe it will get the supporters behind the manager and the team so that we can move up the league.

The table looks a lot better this morning Saints up to 14th and a real pity that if we hadn't been cheated out of three points at Watford that we would now be 11th and relegation would be far off, we now need to make sure we don't drop back down.

Saints first need to get out of relegation trouble, maybe they can do something in the FA Cup to end with a flourish, do this and then we can have the post mortems in the summer.

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InsideOut added 10:13 - Feb 4
Great result and performance. Proves we can play, now we need to show we can keep doing it, week in week out. If our luck changes too then perhaps we'll scrape though. Let's hope so.

SaintBrock added 10:25 - Feb 4
If only we had somebody better than Long to sub at CF. He misses so many sitters It is amazing he still earns a living as a professional footballer. Get a move on Charlie, stop skiving and get out there!

SanMarco added 10:41 - Feb 4
To be accurate even a win at Watford would only make us 4pts clear and not 'far off'. A great win and I thought we did well after their second goal to see out the game comfortably (of course it doesn't feel like that in real time!)

It is like a football season out of Alice and Wonderland for us at the moment. Stephens and Yoshi more useful for their goalscoring than their defending and a run of 6 games unbeaten, including 9 goals, in which a forward hasn't scored even one - they are even outscored by opposition defenders. Oh for Stephens, or my 96 year old aunty for that matter, to have had that header that Long missed. The good news is that Lemina is back to form/being selected and the new lad (keep wanting to call him Carillion but that is something else) showed signs of being useful. To see out this season comfortably we will need to start defending crosses and corner competently and we will need attacking players to start scoring some goals. If we do end up safe it will be in spite of and not because of the transfer decisions.

Having said that it was a great relief yesterday to see us look better than the other team AND beat them!!

aceofthebase added 10:42 - Feb 4
Pity we can't start with thirteen players so that everyone's favourite can be in the starting lineup. Mind you there would still be total disagreement amongst saints fans and Nick as to who should be in the squad.

Well done PM for picking a winning team and good use of the subs bench.

The players are obviously playing their hearts out for the manager and eventually the boo boy fans(sic!) might come round to total support of the Saints.

There were several star players in the team, we all saw that and they are going to give a good account of themselves for the rest of the season.


law101 added 10:49 - Feb 4
In a season of mainly negatives, yesterday was great. Good atmosphere, great performance and some good substitutions, particularly long. He ran a tiering back 4 ragged! Carrillo looks like he has something about him. Lemina different class! Onwards and upwards!

dirk_doone added 10:58 - Feb 4
It showed real fighting spirit to come back from a goal down away from home. This season has developed in a similar way to the last one, when we also looked in danger of relegation at one stage. We could well finish as high as 9th and get into another cup final.

SaintNick added 11:03 - Feb 4
There was a team spirit yesterday that has slowly built up over the last six games, its far from recovered just yet but there is now real hope

kevleykeegle added 11:07 - Feb 4
Hate that Long is booed by some of the Saints’ fans. That’s the last thing a player low on confidence needs... He puts in a shift every time.

Consigliere added 11:15 - Feb 4
OK so the prisoner has had the shackles removed and been lead from the electric chair back into the condemned man's cell but yesterday was only a reprieve not a pardon. For that to happen we need to put in a good performance against Liverpool (not necessarily even a win but a battling fight with the ball being moved forwards and not sideways or back) and a few more good performances until the end of the season. Then, and only then, and only if we survive, should there be further discussion as to whether the manager is set free from gaol. Until then he has to live every day as if it were his last.

AmericanSaint added 11:16 - Feb 4
MP made a good starting side, but I was surprised by JWP (who vindicated his being chosen with good crosses and a goal). There was fight and spirit in the team and I think Lemina was the key (as people are saying). He really shut up the fans who were chanting "You're going to be sacked in the morning". To those fans, you are fools and are probably the same ones who think Carillo will not be good. You are probably also the same fans who booed Pelle when he came to to us and he started slow. Yesterday, it took Foster's great save to keep out his first try on goal. How does Long miss a clean header????? WTH. MP made some good subs and that help stem the tide at the end of the game. Maybe now he will see who should be playing week-in week-out. Finally, I think we are going to do better at our away games then home one and that is all due to the pressure the fans keep heaping on the team when things dont go well early in a game. Not to the home fans - Maybe cheer load to boost the team instead of booing and jumping on the manager from the get go. Just a thought.

SaintNick added 11:16 - Feb 4
Long never gives less than 100%, he has scored and created some vital goals in four seasons at the club, some judge him just on goals, its about more than that, Long came on yesterday and did exactly what you wanted him to do and contributed to the win, yes he should have scored but a striker missing a good chance wasnt invented by Shane Long

131153 added 11:20 - Feb 4
A great win yesterday, apart from the last twenty minutes after listening I needed to lie down in a darkened room with a large G & T. When all said and done a great team performance, I thought Stephens was fouled when they scored the opener, having said that he needs to get a lot stronger in situations like that at corners. I can't get my head round some of the posters on sites who make statements about Les Reed firstly as if they know him and his objectives etc. Do they really think he comes to work thinking about how he can get us relegated. There may well be people out there who could do a better job, but I haven't seen anyone suggest anyone. Of course he has made mistakes in some of the signings as have every club in this division. He has also made some great signings.

I think a little bit of perspective is needed, it saddens me when you look at the table it is virtually the case every team bar the top six could get relegated. I don't think it will be too many years before the top six here get what they want a European Super League where they can play the the five or six big European clubs all season. Sure the TV money will follow them but dragging the best six clubs out the championship would probably make a great league with a lot pretty even and exciting games. Any others have toughts on this possibility.

highfield49 added 11:23 - Feb 4
Like many supporters have pointed out in recent weeks it doesn't matter quite so much if you concede goals provided you put more in the net at the other end. Although he wasn't on the score sheet Carrillo did enough for me to show that he can be a very decent signing. Lemina was back to his early season form and every player put in a shift. McCarthy made a couple of saves when Forster would have been still getting to the ball and JWP looks better and better every week. I'm not sure how many goals JWP has set up or scored himself in recent weeks but surely even his blinkered critics can see how important he is to the team?

LordDZLucan added 11:27 - Feb 4
A great article; Nick, and some great posts. Confidence is everything in this game. Onwards and upwards. Coyr

SanMarco added 11:32 - Feb 4
Yes Long does do other good work but his job description surely has something about scoring goals in it. He is a forward or striker or whatever you call it nowadays. One goal in a whole season of football is not what you expect from a forward. I, of course, agree that he shouldn't be booed but I also feel that yesterday's miss could have been vital in our season and it wasn't exactly the first time...

saintsnutcase added 11:38 - Feb 4
Credit where it is due -- JWP is our most consistent player at the moment.

lemmsy added 11:38 - Feb 4
Great spirit to come back from the early goal on such an emotional day at the hawthorns. Really good signs from Carillo who was very unfortunate not to score , topclass save from foster . As much as Stephens goals have been great & id love him to progress he needs to learn defensively very quickly, he was poor on the first goal & made several other mistakes that he got away with. Definitely a time to be positive though , I think lemina is only just getting full fitness that was evident in a great display & boufal starting to shine ( both record breaking signings by our dreadful transfer policies !)
Nothing can be taken for granted in the most competitive league in the world but hopefully we’re on the up

lemmsy added 11:38 - Feb 4
Great spirit to come back from the early goal on such an emotional day at the hawthorns. Really good signs from Carillo who was very unfortunate not to score , topclass save from foster . As much as Stephens goals have been great & id love him to progress he needs to learn defensively very quickly, he was poor on the first goal & made several other mistakes that he got away with. Definitely a time to be positive though , I think lemina is only just getting full fitness that was evident in a great display & boufal starting to shine ( both record breaking signings by our dreadful transfer policies !)
Nothing can be taken for granted in the most competitive league in the world but hopefully we’re on the up

Boris1977 added 11:49 - Feb 4
I'm not sure if it's a case of managing expectations but I'm not bothered about relegation on the whole, but that could be my mind not being able to handle the stress of the false dawn's. My big worry is saints are going to concede every game so we need the strikers to come back from injury and start scoring. I've almost forgotten how to celebrate wins so staying sober for now.

lemmsy added 11:54 - Feb 4
I’m with you 131153
I felt under puel we were better away from home and again under mp,
I guess it’s just football now that so called supporters want a manager sacked after 2-3 games which has been the case for the last 2 seasons
As for transfers it’s conveniently forgotten when we sell the likes of van dyk & mane that les Reed & co found them in the first place!

REEDYREEDOREEDZ added 12:06 - Feb 4
Fantastic performance. We controlled the game and should've had a 4th before Brom pulled one back.
Ward Prowse deserves a lot of credit. He's given 100% recently and has really delivered in goals and assists. Lemina was superb throughout.
Pellegrino deserves some credit for finally putting out a more attacking line up. One holding DCM (Romeu), one box to box midfielder (Lemina) and a number 10 (Tadic). It worked. We had more options going forward.
Tadic and Boufal continue to frustrate. It's thier decision making and final bit of quality lacking in that killer pass or shot. They need to be a bit more clinical in the final third. A bit more killer instinct needed from those two.
Onwards and upwards. Need to sustain that level of performance and keep attacking. We're so much better when we're on the front foot and not sat back inviting pressure.

pintsizedsaint added 12:59 - Feb 4
Great result. The decision to start with Lemina and Boufal was perhaps the key to this more fluid performance from the Saints. Yes, it was jittery - but for Saints to get the points against a home side fighting for their life on a poignant day for the club is no mean feat.

Have to highlight the light and dark that is Stephens. As with Spurs, we once again saw our central defenders being bullied in the box at a corner. Hegazy simply outmuscled Stephens for an easy head. Guaranteed that will not be the last time we see that tactic in the remaining games this season. Similar thoughts go with Hoedt: these guys are good defenders but they are young and lack top strength in the cut and thrust of physical sides like West Brom. Both goals (although the 2nd was a pretty decent cross from Brunt) were avoidable. I do sense MP has seen that lack of physical presence all season in these two; hence his wish to use other combinations.

However there is light. Stephens is showing amazing qualities in getting into good spaces and scoring well placed goals. Hoedt too shows flashes of good footwork skill going forward. MP has stuck with these two in recent games and it is paying dividends going forward. They just need to toughen up at the back: do that and this win will be consolidated.

Anyway, the spoils go to Lemina: what a player. He’s not been fully fit but he looks so now. He bossed this game from start the finish and showed his qualities in attitude and offensive play. He must now be the centrepiece of future squads. If he stays fit and keeps this level of performance we will be safe. His goal was something special.

Overall a really good team performance; clearly this is a very talented,skilled team. JWP deserves considerable mention. I hope that will silence those fans who would have seen him sold by now. He’s a future captain of this club and now we can see why saints offered him a long contract .

Carrillo looked good too - only a superb save from Foster prevented him from scoring on his starting debut.

Overall looking good, but need to keep consistency, and cancel out these individual errors. Yet well done to MP and the team. I have a feeling (just a feeling) that MP could end up being a very good manager for this club. He’s learning the hard way, but that could pay dividends. Saints have put faith in him and I admire the club for that.

And regardless of all this, the most important thing is that Pompey could only draw...

Have a great week Saints fans!

skiptonsaint added 13:31 - Feb 4
Seen West Brom fans sayinf Leminas performance was the best seen at the Hawthorns

Looks like the injury is behind him and I say build the team around him,especially when you compare it to Davis’s performance midweek.

The players reaction at the end with the crowd shows they have much more of a bond with the away support and that’s good news as we have a few more sways than homes.

JWP now looks the finished article and Carillo showed enough to be encouraged.

If we can avoid defeat against Liverpool we have a good chance of taking this run on for a few more games which will keep building confidence.

What an up and down week. The life of a saints fan.

SaintPaulVW added 13:32 - Feb 4
Great game of football to watch. Credit to the Saints fans for the Cyrille Regis tribute.

Lemina was immense. I'm a big Davis fan but imo he hasn't played that well recently and I worry he may be just over the hill, so Lemina is coming good at the right yime.

Hoedt and Stephens are ball playing centre halves but are don't seem as solid as traditional centre backs. So life could be interesting. Carillo did OK

Boufal and Tadic played well still bloody annoying when they give the ball away easily though.

JWP seems to finally be coming of age. The spat/makeup with Boufal shows a bit of grit I'm the team.

Fitting Gabbi in and playing 2 from Romeo, PEH and Lemina is a lovely problem to have.

MP did OK yesterday. Hopefully he is up to speed on the EPL now and we can expect rational sides to be picked and intelligent substitutions.

In short we are still in the sh** but there is strong hope we can survive.

Still seemed a lot of love in the squad for JRod at the end and it possibly was a penalty when Bertrand crashed into him but the ref seemed to even it up with a few dodgy decisions he'd made the baggies way earlier.

Overall very pleased and just hope we can carry that spirit and MP rationality into the Liverpool game. COYR

Boris1977 added 14:27 - Feb 4
I wonder if we can get special dispensation to play all our remaining games away from hpme

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