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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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Consigliere added 10:41 - Feb 23
There is much to agree with here, and it was certainly a commanding performance from the team, but we are so used to disappointment at home that I doubt there was supporter in red who didn't fear an equaliser in the additional four minutes at the end! It was a super-cool finish from Armstrong, who must have had to strive mightily to avoid the rush of blood to the head which would have caused him to miss, but really we shouldn't have had to wait this long for a second goal. So many missed opportunities in the first half that could have cost us dear. The whole team should be made to watch and watch again that second goal so as to drive home the point that when in front of goal you need to keep calm and hit the target.

That being said, a great afternoon's entertainment!

SanMarco added 10:45 - Feb 23
Good win - all I am going to say is that we HAVE improved and we are going to stay up. Yes we are only 6 points off Europe but that is not going to happen. A nice comfortable mid-table finish is now within our grasp. It will be up to the club to build on that in the summer (an issue that will take up many square miles of TUI discussion space I am sure!!)

What I am seething about today is the Danny Ings clear penalty at Liverpool that wasn't given due to them going up the other end and scoring. At the time I said that the inevitable scenario where a penalty had to be given like that would happen in a game between 'small teams' Our penalty that day was far more clear cut than Burnley's yesterday. The commentariat's view was that it would have taken 'brave' officials to rule out the Liverpool goal and give us a penalty. That says it all for me - one rule for the 'elite' and a totally opposite rule for everyone else...

PS sorry for breaking the rules by talking about non game-specific issues but VAR is the issue for this season.

davidargyll added 10:47 - Feb 23
Wonderful stuff. 28 shots eh? WOW!
Villa though, Grealish apart especially in H1, were really bad - John Terry never had a happy countenance but my goodness he looked well peeved throughout the match - and we really did give them a pasting, didn’t we? I was so pleased for Smallbone (very cool under pressure) and Moussa (what a comedy player he is, so skilled but all over the place at the same time) and Shane and Armstrong and Che and JWP and PEH and Jack and in fact the whole lot of them.
That said we did seem to rather oddly run out of puff about half way though the second half - I hope not a sign of over-training - but they still got the job done nicely.
But doubts remain. I spent a good twenty minutes before the off trying to persuade the guys behind me that we were going to win this game easily, 3-1 I reckoned as we had done in the away fixture. They were convinced it would be a draw at best! OK so we couldn’t double our score until 90+ minutes but we were still well worth the points.
My conclusion is that the spectre of that 9-0 mauling still hangs over the crowd but seemingly and crucially not the players.
There are four qualities of team in the PL: “challenging for/comfortably in Europe”, “mid-league mediocrity”, “looking over their shoulders”, and “utter rubbish”.
I think we can now all agree that Villa are 100% in the bottom category, but we on the other hand, after yesterday’s performance, I reckon are now well in to “mid-league mediocrity” and probably the top half of it. In other words there are now considerably more than three worse teams in the league than us, namely Norwich, West Ham, the Villa and you could probably throw in Bournemouth, Watford, Brighton and Newcastle as well.
The fact that William Hill are now offering 200/1 on us going down says it all.
The light at the end of that particular tunnel gets ever brighter....

wessexman added 11:06 - Feb 23
Driving home from a certain Friday night game in October, like most I feared the worst. The transformation has been quite incredible. Credit must go to Ralph and the players. But...the hard work starts now! The club must start elevating it's ambitions and aim for comfortable mid table finishes and cup runs. If it continues to flirt with relegation again next season...it will happen!

wessexman added 11:06 - Feb 23
Driving home from a certain Friday night game in October, like most I feared the worst. The transformation has been quite incredible. Credit must go to Ralph and the players. But...the hard work starts now! The club must start elevating it's ambitions and aim for comfortable mid table finishes and cup runs. If it continues to flirt with relegation again next season...it will happen!

highfield49 added 11:54 - Feb 23
A real shame that a few more of those twenty eight shots didn't find the net even though Reina was made to produce some decent saves. Surely we're due for one of those matches where,like Leicester, just about everything beats the keeper? West Ham on the receiving end next week would be sweet but I'd be quite happy to wait a few weeks until the Bournemouth game. Other than that a real pleasure to watch the game yesterday with several notable performances. JWP kept Grealish pretty much out of the game and the defence looked mostly solid and organised with Stephens and Bednarek surely the first choice for the rest of the season. Smallbone and Adams both showed that they are very much the future and Armstrong is going to be a fixture on the team sheet. Very well won three points and, playing like that, we will be well clear of any thoughts of relegation by the end of next month.

aceofthebase added 11:58 - Feb 23
What a goal by Shane Long. It was as if he was copying Ings own goal with his body movement, perhaps this type of goal will now have a special name like the Cruiff turn. Suggestions, please.

1970 added 12:14 - Feb 23
Its a great result and puts us nearer to safety but villa were incredibly poor so for me beating other teams such as west ham or Bournemouth would mean a whole lot more coyr

halftimeorange added 12:29 - Feb 23
It could be a film title, couldn't it - "The Life & Times Of A Saints Supporter" but, would it be a comedy, a tragedy or a disaster movie? Unfortunately the plot never comes together until the final scene so, I guess it's a mystery. Yesterday we had all four probabilities over various sections of the game but, the mystery part was why Saints weren't cantering by halftime. Do our stars actually practice shooting (notwithstanding that Pepe Raina is an accomplished 'keeper). Danny Ings for one must still be shaking his head at missed possibilities. The Villa defence, Tyrone Mings apart, is the worst seen at St Marys this season including our own. For the Saints JWP was outstanding, even coping with the theatrical plunging of the otherwise talented Grealish who seemed bent on giving a Tom Daly impersonation. I should also mention the very efficient Smallbone who certainly earned more game time this season and, for me, the man of the match was Stuart Armstrong. The speed he showed in trying to stop the ball going out for a Villa throw near our penalty area showed what an engine he has and that was replicated when he latched onto Che Adams's pinpoint pass and showed the chasing pack a clean pair of heels before sliding the ball home. In film terms, it wasn't quite a thriller but, all the same decent family entertainment.

Block8 added 13:09 - Feb 23
Enjoyed the game even if at 1-0 it was a bit worrying. Crowd was great, let's keep that going please! Everyone performed admirably & JWP looked well at ease at RB. That's Zaha &Grealish kept quiet not bad for a central midfielder.
Like your point about Dunelm he reminds me of Antonio when he was with us, no one, not even him knows what he is going to do 😂.
Laughed a few times when he fell over his own legs but you can see the talents there.
Boufal got another week to recover, we may need him next week if West Ham sit back like they did at ours.
Sum up golf game, very good performance, great crowd & I got a laugh too, at a home game. Who would've believed that on Friday!

Block8 added 13:11 - Feb 23
Spell check Djnepo not Dunhelm????

wibbersda added 13:26 - Feb 23
I would like to credit Ralf on this one as well. Once the inevitable pressure came on us as Villa pushed for an equaliser, for once the substitutions at the time were SPOT on. Normally it is left too late as our front guys tire and cannot maintain the high press. Getting Adam's and Obby on to keep that press then most of the usual pressure was nullified. Great work from all, well done Saints!

underweststand added 17:17 - Feb 23
YES - a pulsating game that almost became embarrassing after scoring just one goal from the first 27 shots. It might have ended in tears if Villa had equalised in the last quarter.

All season we have heard many complaints about our defence, but 8 of our defeats have been by a single goal when we had more shots in most of those games. A strike force that needs 28 shots to score 2 goals really needs to brush up on its shooting practice.

BUT - we saw some great performances especially from Will Smallbone who looked calm and collected in his first Prem. game and was worth all the applause when he came off.
Stuart Armstrong really has become a vital cog in midfield and Djenepo has come on well but he must avoid the " Boufal ploy " of trying to beat the same man twice of three times, when we see he can plough into the area and produce an assist as he did to Long.

If JWP really is our best choice for RB, then Valery and KWP will need to smarten up . He did a good job on Grealish for long periods yet still managed the wing-back role very well.

Ché Adams is gradually getting more game time ..now almost upto 20 minutes, and on another day he might have "broken his duck" but his assist to Armstrong was inspired and Stuart didn't waste time in taking his shot early before Reina could get back.

A good 3 points to send the St.Mary's faithful home happy, let's hope we can maintain those good away perfrmances for the rest of the season, because wins at SMS are still regarded as some sort of a bonus, and not a home " banker".

LoisDeem added 09:52 - Feb 24
1. Apart from the usual backfoot corner in injury time (but against them?) with our deserved funny and overdue goals, (should that first one be credited to Smallbone, Shane?) a good performance.
2. Ralph's tactical nous again: re JWP and Smallbone, and the regular managerial (injury) default from time immemorial -Djenepo and Armstrong for Redmond and Boufal -so it all came off.
3. More goals, clean sheets and subsequent points should now be the target for progress -to fully erase the Leicester and Spurs results. Ohhh, I feel a double rant coming on....
4. More songs from the Saints fans -even Nick's 'Ticket to Ryde' is better than the morbid STID and our new found mournful version of OWTSGMI (thanks Spurs!) But, well done, those that sung.
5. Though it was a fairly VAR free game, I do hope we've witnessed the death of this ill thought out experimental blot on our national game. Can't believe the refs wanted this, let's now step forward and support them and appreciate their real value. To err is human, but this robotic and thinly disguised version of the fourth official fully undermines and undervalues our referees, promotes procrastination and even more conflict, whilst at the same time taking away any integrity or discretion from the officials. Simultaneously, sucking atmosphere and stealing false drama from our stadiums, and ultimately stealing the stage more than some more deserving showmen ever did, be they officials or players.
Not bad for a first season, if ever there was an example of (allowing) the robots taking over, eh? Whatever happened to 'Respect the ref'?

Peterx added 16:03 - Feb 24
Great game, great result and great teamwork. Relieved that the team performance did not drop off this week without Redders and Boufal.

No teams are matching our first half work rate and as we get more street smart in the 2md half I think we are going to beat more good teams.

Bodes well for the rest of the season and for next season especially. Cant wait.

IanRC added 19:51 - Feb 24
Djenepo is a real find, couldn’t understand what got into him last week when he didn’t try once to go down the wing but back to his stunning best on Saturday. As others have said a good all round performance, hope everyone now gives Adams the time he needs as that is the second great assist he has produced.

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Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
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
Letters from Wiltshire #29 by wessex_exile

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