Saints V Aston Villa The Verdict
Sunday, 23rd Feb 2020 10:29
Injury hit Saints re jigged and put in their most comprehensive home performance of the season, the squad stepped up to the plate in adversity and the spirit showed.
The scoreline flattered an Aston Villa side who looked gutless from the very first minute and failed to register a shot on goal in the first half.
When the Saints team was announced an hour before the kick off it showed the Saints line up with Djenepo at right back, whether this was a ploy by Ralph Hasenhuttl to fool the Villa camp or just lazy journalism i'm not sure, but it was a talking point pre match.
But the moment the game kicked off it was clear what the formation was, James Ward Prowse was ar right back, Will Smallbone made his Premier League debut in the centre of the midfield and Djenepo was up front and he soon showed he was up for it after his lacklustre display a week ago.
Indeed Djenepo showed the difference between the two sides in terms of spirit and fight, when he had a head injury he was bandaged up and raring to go, when El Ghazi went down clutching his head he was off the pitch, he rolled back on and started a farce where he firstly wasted everyones time being treated whilst he gestured to the referee about being elbowed before deciding he couldn't continue, even his own team mates went over and appeared to be telling him to get off the pitch.
This was the difference between the two sides, we had fight we had spirit and we fought for each over as a team as well as individually.
Djenepo in a wild card role up front had room to run at the Villa defence and he did that especially when he crossed for Shane Long to score in the 8th minute after sustained pressure.
The main debate seemed to be with what part of his body he had put the ball in, Villa claimed his hand but it was nowhere near that as TV showed, Match of the Day said it was his six pack, bt they were being diplomatic, the Irish striker clearly put it in with his genitals, the next chant will surely be "Shane Long he scores with his nuts"
This gave Saints the breathing space they needed and it was a comprehensive first half display, Pepe Reina made a couple of smart saves to block both Djenepo and Ings and it could easily have been 3-0 at the break.
In the second half Villa were a little better but not much, but Saints for all their domination could not find a second so it was looking like a nervy finish.
But Saints remained cool and although Villa pushed they didn't look like scoring, their final chance saw JWP block well and from the corner McCarthy punched clear, initially Cge Adams didn't look favourite to get the ball, but he did, held off a challenge and then showed great vision to sweep the ball across the pitch to put Stuart Armstrong through on goal, it wasn't an easy finish he had to make a 30 yard sprint and then roll it into the empty net fro 25 yards or so, but he did and the game was won.
This was a match when it was hard to pick a man of the match, everyone was at least an 8/10 and contributed to a team performance, Stephens and Bednarek were solid at the back and showed how that can help a side dominate a game, Will Smallbone had a solid debut and Shane Long was well Shane Long never stopped battling and running, but there were more than a few contenders for a 9.
James Ward Prowse was one, playing out of position at right back he not only looked assured defensively,, he seemed to bring organisation to the defence, he held his position and found his man and urged others to do the same.
Djenepo was another, he is a wild card that is for sure, but like Sadio Mane he can frighten defenders to death and if he doesn't appear to know what he is doing at times, nor do they, he played a vital part especially in the first half.
Stuart Armstrong was another who worked hard and thoroughly deserved his late goal to cap a fine performance.
Saints took a big step in beating Villa, they showed they can win at home and more importantly the three points means we put a big gap between us and the bottom three and kept us in the mix behind the top 10.
I still think we will find it difficult to get a Europa League spot and even a top 10 finish will be tough, but we have something to chase this season and something to build on for next.
Time to put the past behind us whether it is the success of 5 years ago, the tribulations of the last 2 years or even the debacle that was the autumn of this term, we have to stop harking on about what has gone before good or bad and look to the future without prejudice and give those in charge now the benefit of the doubt.
We should go to the match to support our team and enjoy it, not to wind ourselves up and froth at the mouth, the future has a lot more positives than negatives.
Photo: Action Images
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Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Today we face a trip to Crawley, not usually a venue that bears fruit for the U’s it has to be said. In nine visits we’ve only won once in the league, and once in the League Cup. Of course, we’ll all remember that League Cup victory, indeed many of us were probably there to see us progress through to 5th round and the dream fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford. All of our goal-scorers that night, Luke’s Norris and Gambin, and Cohen Bramall (okay, technically an O.G.), are no longer with us, so let’s hope at the very least that recent departee and subsequent returnee Frank Nouble can bag another like his late equaliser against Mansfield. Steve Ball commented during the week about how tight the league is at the moment, and he’s right that a couple of back to back victories would see us move significantly up the table away from danger – but we’ve got to win them first Steve – something we’ve failed to do since our 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe on December 8th.
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved the greatest cup giant-killing ever!
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
Letters from Wiltshire #30 by wessex_exile
Friday night football – can’t beat it. Gives you that feelgood factor all weekend, sitting back to enjoy a stress-free Saturday afternoon watching others fail in your wake. Of course, you have to win first, which we’ve been struggling to do for a while now, so be prepared for the possibility of a miserable weekend just in case. We share this evening with Reading v AFC Bournemouth, albeit they kick-off an hour later than we do. In the real world, leaders of the UK’s five largest business groups have written to Boris demanding action on the substantial difficulties they are facing over Brexit bureaucracy, whilst French border authorities are reporting that two-thirds of lorries arriving from the UK are empty (i.e. no exports leaving the UK). Still, at least the NHS can enjoy their extra £350m per week…
Letters from Wiltshire #29 by wessex_exile
Looks like some around the world have started 2021 a bit cross. Never mind the attempted insurrection at the Capitol earlier this month, those normally laid-back Dutch have now been rioting for three nights running about the imposition of a night-time curfew to try and curb the spread of coronavirus. Farmers in Delhi have stormed through police lines and breached the Red Fort in protest against market reforms, and tragic Somalia has just passed the 30th anniversary of their ongoing civil war. In brighter news, President Biden has immediately begun dismantling and/or reversing some of Trump’s more contentious decisions, including rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, renewed funding for the World Health Organisation, revoking the ‘Muslim travel ban’, defunding the border wall, rescinding Trump’s report calling for a ‘more patriotic’ syllabus in schools, and overturning the ban on transgender people serving in the military.
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