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Southampton 2 v 1 Norwich City
Barclays Premier League
Wednesday, 4th December 2019 Kick-off 19:30
Saints V Norwich City The Verdict
Thursday, 5th Dec 2019 12:18

Sometimes home wins are like buses, none come for ages then two come along at once, Saints fans don't care they saw their team pull out of the bottom three.

This was a game that was never going to be pretty, it was going to be a test of Saints spirit, nerve, patience and guts, playing flowing attractive football was never going to be high on the agenda.

As per my preview there was only the one change, out went Obafemi and in came Shane Long and it was a change that paid dividends.

Saints started well and got a firm grip on the game in the first half and were rewarded by a great goal, from a superb free kick from James Ward Prowse Danny Ings glanced the ball home to soothe the home nerves.

Now Saints were in control and Norwich barely registered in our half and a great header down from Shane Long was well met by Ryan Bertrand from close range in the 43rd minute, Saints almost made it three shortly after and only a great save from Krul kept Norwich in it, they were on the ropes and saved by the bell or in this case the half time whistle.

That meant that the third goal of the game was always going to be crucial, and for 20 minutes of the second half there looked to be only one team who would score it, Danny Ings was almost that man with a fine shot just past the post, but within a minute Saints had gone to sleep and the ball was in the net, sadly ours completely against the run of play.

The goal was not an individual error just a collective lapse in concentration, we failed to challenge for the ball on the half way line and let Norwich put through a ball to Pukki, he had got the wrong side of Cedric and Jack Stephens had failed to read the danger to cover, Pukki ran through unchallenged and hit a decent shot but Alex McCarthy had got his angles wrong and was beaten easily at the near post when he should have been a yard or two to his right.

This was bite your nails time for Saints and in the main the team dug in and made sure Norwich didn't get any clear chances to literally the final minute of injury time.

I,m not sure if we got it right with the subs, Romeu on for Djenepo was the right move to bring the player on, but in my opinion the wrong man came of Djenepo still had plenty of running in him.

Adams for Ings was the thing to do but the final substitution seemed to create chaos at the back rather than provide more cover, Yoshida came on and did not do anything wrong per se, but suddenly we had an extra man in defence and we were not sure who was meant to be marking who, too many players were leaving it to others and that gave Norwich their final chance that they thankfully missed.

Hard to pick a man of the match, the BBC chose James Ward Prowse and I can't argue with that, he again was involved with a goal turning provider for the first, he is unsung amongst some Saints fans, but his contribution should not be underestimated.

He was not alone though, Danny Ings not only scored but worked hard to create space and chances for others, Shane Long not only made the second goal, but was a handful and really should have had a penalty, Djenepo ran at defenders as did Nathan Redmond who although struggling to find form never hid and that is perhaps what exemplified this and recent performances, a team battered and bruised and short on confidence but have never stopped wanting the ball and have kept trying to do the right things.

I say this again, we are not a bad team, we are a good team with poor central defenders, i we had any two from any other Premier League team then we would be in the top ten.

But it was the result that counted and not the manner of it, after the torrid time we have had this season we were never going to be able to click our fingers and suddenly become a free flowing team who are tight at the back, but what we have become is a team with spirit who can only improve going forward especially if we can get in an experienced central defender in the summer.

The crowd was sparse but magnificent, a cold December evening sorts out the hard core and this was the hard core who got behind the team from the start to the finish and made a noise that raised the roof.

We are out of the bottom three and have something to build on, the next three games are crucial, again we need to set our expectations at a realistic level, 3 points will keep us placed to avoid relegation, four points will be good, five points excellent.

So we now have hope, we have a foundation to build on, the experience of the last two months was either going to break us or be the making of us, the last three games have given us the answer !

Photo: Action Images

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TheFoo added 12:58 - Dec 5
We have found two clubs worse than us, and played them at home back to back. Let's not get carried away.

saintmark1976 added 13:11 - Dec 5
Norwich were there for the taking with them being equally as poor as Watford. Please let's maintain a sense of proportion.

In regard to the game itself I thought that yet again the manager got his substitutions wrong, not so much as to who he took off and put on but more in regard to timing. We needed fresh legs just before Norwich scored not afterwards. We got lucky at the death just as we did against Watford when the opposition fluffed a good goal scoring opportunity.

DorsetIan added 13:20 - Dec 5
This was was a great result which puts us right back in the mix with a whole bunch of teams on between 14-16 points.

My only frustration was that after his impact against Everton and Watford, I thought it was only a matter of time before Boufal game on to add a bit of extra spark to our attacking, as we did seem to run out of steam in the second half of the second half. And when Yoshida came on as the final sub, I was worried.

In fact, had Norwich got a late equaliser we would all have been complaining about Ralph being too negative and not having a clue about substitutes.

Perhaps he was giving Boufal's toe a chance to rest. Perhaps it was a very simple 'hold what we've got' strategy. Anyway, it worked, but I agree that moving to 5 at the back when all season we have played worse with 5 at the back than with 4, is not the obvious tightening up that it should be.

I said before the Arsenal came that we could win the next three and we very nearly did. The manager and the team need massive credit for picking themselves up, particularly after the 0-9 and there are now positive signs that we can push on from here.

Peterx added 13:21 - Dec 5
If you look at the first half compared to Watford, this performance was so much better, which I put down to Long and Ings being our best pressing combo up front and some increased confidence from the Arsenal and Watford performances. Momentum is key and we need to give everything at Newcastle on Sunday to keep the run going. I'm not as convinced that our CB's are so dire as everyone is making out now we have settled on 4 at the back, Bednarek has been strong and Stephens to me is starting to benefit from a run in the side.

HythePeer added 13:32 - Dec 5
The manager seems to have abandoned his crazy team configuration. So all was well, until he started to interfere in the second half with the inevitable collapse into a circle-of-wagons defending. It nearly cost the game, and really should have. Luckily the Indians couldn't shoot straight.

Jesus_02 added 14:29 - Dec 5
I think Norwich where a better side than Watford and on a similar run to us. So overall the performance was encouraging.

JWP was my MOTM. Which surprises me because I normally think he is over negative, over cautious and afraid to make mistakes. I though his energy was excellent last night and perhaps that was the difference. Also I was quite shocked by how good Long looked, But I suppose its because in Ings was have someone that has relieved the goal scoring pressure.

I concur that the extra person at the back caused more concern that it should. We have seemed most comfortable with 2 at the back and a deep lying ball winning midfielder.

Looking forward to Jan I think a leader at the back and someone to break up play in front would be my wish list.... Oh and another Ings for when this one inevitably get injured.

schatfield added 14:41 - Dec 5
Where are all the ward-prowse haters that often plague this site? without him we would be down at the bottom now...

Very pleased to see Shane Long back in the starting line up. He may not score goals but he does so much more for the team.

Colburn added 15:22 - Dec 5
I agree that Norwich were a far better opponent than Watford. Playing 2 up top and 4 at the back suits us better. JWP had his best game of the season and probably deserved MOTM as his industry was finally up to par with his dead ball delivery. If he continues the same way, the doubters, including myself will have to eat our words. The whole team looked happier with the formation and for a team more desperate than is for points, we limited them to a couple of half chances in the last 20 mins, we should see that as a positive. I thought Che looked very dangerous when he came, he has different movement and skillset to the other strikers, I'm sure he'll come goodon and hopefully Boufal will be fit for Sunday. We've come through the toughest 2 games in terms pressure this season with 6 points and we've now won as many games as Arsenal. With a bit of luck we could have been on 17 points and looking upwards, 4 points off sixth place.. Its fine margins and I think we've had our low point of the season. Bring on the Geordies!

davidargyll added 16:34 - Dec 5
More humble pie eating is due from me.
Wonderful stuff at times, nail-biting at others. But that’s what PL football below the top echelon is about, isn’t it. And the man I love to hate JWP rightly as MotM?
Looks like my application for pundit on match of the day will now have to be put on permanent hold.
But one final thought. If/when Norwich go down why not put in a bid for Pukki? Looks like quality...

halftimeorange added 16:53 - Dec 5
In the first half Saints deservedly dominated Norwich, particularly in the final fifteen minutes when that elusive third goal would have settled things. After the break it was obvious that Norwich would come at us and we seemed to allow them to by defending deeper and deeper. And then their goal after which it was desperate and furious in front of our goal underlined by a dreadful hoick by Cedric from one side of the pitch to the other into an area where no Saints player was anywhere near. Basic intelligence should have dictated that the ball needed to be run into the corner. My opinion is that the woeful Redmond, strolling around ball-watching and not covering back should have been off at halftime. Everyone sitting in the centre of the Kingsland bemoaned his lack of effort in supporting Bertrand and his failure to take on and beat a man, especially against the club that sold him to us. Also, I cannot agree about Che Adams. He was never up with play floating around in areas where he was never going to touch the ball. I am afraid he is not going to make the grade. The subs were wrong in that Djenepo and Long should have stayed on the pitch. Both were a worry to Norwich and our threat left with them. Romeu for Ings was the logical substitution. Danny had run his heart out and needs to be kept for the next game. McCarthy was fooled by the shot that beat him. In fact, I thought Pukki was about to switch feet. Bertrand, JWP and Hobjberg all played their part in this narrow victory which can only help confidence for the battles ahead.

saintlee added 17:05 - Dec 5
I couldn't make the game last night but from the comfort of my living room I saw a team that was slowly getting some confidence back - especially first half.
Some alarm bells were ringing when Ralph attempted to shore things up by bringing on Romeu for Djenepo. My fears were confounded when he brought Yoshida on for Long. I'm sure my TV has never heard language like it. Long was keeping Norwich honest with him running the channels with Norwich scared to go too gung-ho for fear of being broken on. When Yoshida came on that fear subsided and they felt they could nick an equalizer. They would of too if Ssm Byram could finish. Still, we survived and another welcome 3 points.
Newcastle Sunday could be interesting.

Consigliere added 19:17 - Dec 5
What we saw yesterday was (a) good Saints then (b) bad Saints followed by (c) good Saints again, and in opposition to us we saw (d) this season's Saints. To explain, (a) is what we have waited to see all season, defending from the front, running at the opposition and firing shots on target, (b) is failing to pay attention and backing off the incoming attacker and (d) - well that was Norwich playing like we have all season. Almost every time they got the ball it went backwards or sidewards until it seemed to me as though we were watching Saints in disguise! Our players should watch this match over and over and learn that until this week, they played like the men in green.

In terms of individual performances, Ings, Long and Djenepo were the standout performers but in fairness to Redmond, who is obviously low in confidence, I thought that he had a good game and was linking up well with the front line. I suspect that all it needs is for him to score one goal to restore his faith in himself.

I know that all that has happened over the last week is that we have beaten the two worst teams in the league but until now I feared we couldn't even do that. Confucious says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step...

underweststand added 19:32 - Dec 5
well......we scored one goal more than the opposition and got tyhe three points..that's it.
but 15 points has never looked so good as it did last night.

It was hardly the game of the season (technically or skill wise), but once again Ings and Ward-Prowse did the business, and we 're clear of the drop zone for a while anyway. Stephens and Bednarek look to be forming a better CB pair than any other combination we tried so far, but it's a long way from perfection.
Djenepo is exciting to watch, but now realises that he's getting the "special treatment " that all new boys are given when they come to the Prem.

Newcastle has hardly been a happy-hunting ground for Saints ..(and I can say that going back to Div.2 days in the 1960's.).but if we can play as we did against Arsenal then we may get a result for once, as the Geordies are hardly upto Arsenal standard (talentwise)


perazi added 21:37 - Dec 5
Priceless 6 points v Watford/Norwich - a little bit of luck helped too.....often missing this season. We still looked like a struggling Club, light on in quality, and a midfield two, in front of our defence is going to cost us against better sides - Romeu on was a critical move Ralph got right - taking off Djenepo robbed us off counter-attacking speed which in turn emboldened the Norwich midfield (Tetty especially).

Two players I don't rate did very well, particularly in the first half. Shane Long provided the press and harassment of the Norwich defence and his flick on header for Bertrand was a lovely skill. JWP's free kick and corners in the first half were spot on - led to the goals and confirmed that in a struggling side you need your set pieces to count. I still thing that WP in a two man midfield is going to catch up with us defensively - and it showed in the second half. Not much mention of PEH, but his holding and box-to-box midfield efforts were crucial.

Great to see the reaction from Ralph and team at the final whistle - he certainly hasn't lost the dressing room. Crucial in January that CB and CM is strengthened, though I'm not holding my breath that it happens.

Billeewithers added 22:28 - Dec 5
I agree with those who said the subs were a little late …. the signs were already evident that the momentum was ebbing.
I also think that the extra defender was confusing and would only draw Norwich forward. which it did. Ralph seems to have a weak spot with his subs. not the first … even Alf Ramsey had his moments. They worked in that we got a result. I think strengthening further forward would have stopped Norwich from being able to create on the halfway line and given us a chance to rebound into their area. This would have been in keeping with how Saints had been playing and what has shown to already be effective for us. In their faces and in their half.
Whilst centre half is a concern, the fact that we do not really have consistent penetrative presence going into the opposition area is a glaring weakness. We need players who carry a persistent goal threat. Without these kinds of players it is easier for teams to mark us out of the area.
Having said that the two goals today go some way to showing we have promise on that front.

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