Southampton At West Ham United The Verdict
Monday, 24th May 2021 09:28
It was deja vu at West Ham on Sunday afternoon both in terms of what seems to be the obligatory 3 goals conceded, but also the season where once again we lost because of poor defending in a game where we could have got something out of it if we had been tight at the back.
I have mentioned 2 deja vu's up at the London Stadium , now I am going to mention a third, I have written this review on numerous occasions this season, I could almost have a template and cut and paste it each week and just change the names a little, since Xmas it could have been used for the defeats at Leicester City, Everton, West Brom and a host of other defeats where we have thrown the game away due to poor defending and poor goalkeeping.
Before I get going I am going to get the Nathan Redmond issue out of the way, whilst no one not even his mother could claim he had a good game and he was poor, the truth is that he was not to blame for this defeat, it wasn't him who pushed a tame shot straight into the danger area instead of getting it out of harms was, it wasn't he that was caught napping yet again and was 3 yards off his man for the second goal, football is a team game, Redmond was poor but he wasn't alone in that.
But he is the scapegoat for some and they have to rant as if Redmond had scored a hat trick for West Ham of own goals, I think his time is up at this club, if only for the fact that he needs a new start somewhere else, he needs to go somewhere where the fans are not on his back and I for one will thank him for the many good things he has done for this club in five seasons service.
Enough of that lets look at the game and why we lost it, to be honest looking back at it there was little to choose between the two sides aside from West Ham could defend and we couldn't, for the first half an hour we were the dominant side, we could easily have been 2-0 up in that time, Minamino played through and putting a glorious chance just inches wide and Kyle Walker Peters also seeing a good chance well saved by the keeper.
But just as we thought this might be a good day at the office we did what we always do, make mistakes at the back.
Ralph Hasenhuttl went for Alex McCarthy in goal and this was a big mistake, in the past month or so Forster has been the in form keeper and McCarthy out of sorts, I would go as far as saying that he had been found wanting in the 3 goals conceded before this game and sadly he would be found wanting again.
The warning signs were there long before the goal when he came for a cross and completely missed it, luckily we cleared the ball, West Ham's opener was a tame shot, but he parried the ball back into the danger area, when he really should have got it away from the goal, even if he had to concede a corner.
But if that goal came out of nowhere the second 3 minutes later truly found us lacking in concentration, a cross came in and Jannik Vestergaard was completely lost, he wasn't aware of where he should have been and where his man was and it was a simple goal again for Fornals.
Again McCarthy didn't make an attempt to save it, that meant that out of the last 5 goals he had conceded, he had stood and watched 4 of them go past him, only in the second West Ham goal did he make a despairing effort.
So we had gone in the space of 30 minutes from looking good to handing the game to the Hammers.
In the second half we had our chances and Fabianski had to save well again, that was the difference between the two sides, their goalkeeper did his job and so did their defence at vital moments and ours didn't.
Was this a 3-0 game ? no based on the last hour we deserved to lose, based on the first 30 minutes we deserved to win, overall we had 17 attempts on goal with 5 on target, they had 14 but got half of those on target and we let 3 of them in.
That is a recurring theme this season and it needs to be dealt with.
But there were plus points, Mohamed Salisu will become a great defender at St Mary's, he can read a game and he has fast feet and can get himself out of trouble, Ibrahima Diallo showed he will have a part to play next season and played a great through ball for Kyle Walker Peters to put him through on goal.
The return of Oriol Romeu was also good to see.
Saints can look forward to next season as long as they sort out the issues, we have lost games due to the fact that we lose concentration at the back all the time, at this level an International player like Vestrgaard should not be stood on his own in the penalty area, he should be aware of where he needs to be and who needs to be marked, he was stood like a rabbit in the headlights.
As I said this verdict sadly could be written for any number of games since the New Year, Ralph Hasenhuttl must be tearing his hair out when time and time again the same players make the same mistakes, in the case of the back line he perhaps had no one else to play up in East London on Sunday, but in goal McCarthy has been clearly out of form and Forster clearly in it, I don't get that selection.
Was Nathan Redmond the worst player on the pitch for Saints, I would say it was actually Danny Ings, he wasn't playing badly for a lack of trying, but when he got the ball he was too often let down by poor control and couldn't seem to beat his man when he got the ball, no one can berate him for a bad game every now he has been a big part of this success, but lets put this game into perspective.
Also needing to be put into perspective is where we stand in the League table, take a look at the 15 clubs above us, Crystal Palace excepted they all have stadiums that are bigger than ours, average crowds that are bigger than ours in normal times, they all have greater resources and i'm not talking about an owner who pumps money in here.
When the final whistles went around the country, normality had returned to League positions, gone where the early days of the season where Saints could top the League, when the top 8 positions were sorted, they all went to the Big Six plus Leicester and this season's surprise club West Ham United.
We have underperformed this season, but only by one place, this is the reality of the Premier League, when we kicked out the European Super league project all we did was maintain the status quo , the rich getting richer and the bulk of us getting poorer in comparison.
Anyway thank God this season is over and we can get on and plan the next one, there are many things to look forward to, we can see our problems and in that case we should be able to deal with them, if we do then there is no reason why we should not once again become the club that surprises a few people as we did in 2014/15 & 2015/16 , but and it is a big BUT, I leave you with this thought, back then we did so not by spending big money, but by finding the likes of Sadio Mane, Virgil Van Dijk etc, players who had hunger and potential and that is where our success in the future lies, not by trying to outspend the likes of Everton & Villa who have once again spent big but ultimately not got anywhere near challenging the Big Six, but by succeeding on our own terms.
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|wessexman added 09:53 - May 24|
Our defensive woes can be traced back to the day Fonte, our leader, departed. We have survived, but....there will come that tipping point. I agree Redmond needs a fresh start somewhere else....but, WHO is going to pick up his high wages? WHY was Stephens handed a lucrative 4 year contract? WHY give Walcott a contract when his contribution this season has been poor and his injuries highlighted another problem? HOW many wide players do we need? I sincerely hope we are not thinking of signing Minamino. This close season we'll need to smarten up no end and really address the problems which have been so glaringly obvious for many seasons now. On a weekend where we just gave away 3 stupid goals, it was interesting to read Fonte won the French league with Lille and Targett was voted Villa player of the year. I am still in the Ralph camp......but with every miserable defeat and baffling line ups and substitutions, I become more sceptical.
|davidargyll added 09:58 - May 24|
“Thank God that’s over,” was my immediate reaction after yesterday’s debacle. We had nothing to play for and my God it showed. Virtually everyone played poorly or dreadfully and there is nothing more to add about what hopefully marks the nadir of our recent fortunes.
A comment from the Sky commentator did intrigue me though; that David Moyes told his squad that to play for West Ham “you have to run and run…”
We have all gone on an nauseam about the quality and depth - or lack of - of our squad but, if you look at many if not most of our games, the same comments about running out of steam come through time and time again: we always play well for a period, maybe the first half etc, but then we just seem to get knackered and inevitably concede one, two three goals. Staplewood not being completely open, especially the medical facilities bit, may have a lot to do with it of course but you cannot avoid the fact that teams like Leeds and the Hammers do seem to keep going and/or are able to conserve their energies better.
So yes, over the next couple of months shift out some of our rubbish players and get some new ones in, but surely next season getting everyone really really fit is something we can, indeed must, do, especially as it would seem to be a very solvable problem. Because if they continue to be unable to last the game then it won’t matter a toss who is in the (revamped?) team, the Championship beckons.
As for yesterday, Ralph’s comments after the game sum it all up:
“…When you concede the second-most goals in the Premier League it is clear that it is not good enough…I have never seen us conceded so easily…this is what we need to change, either with these players or with others."
Which to me that sounds like a pretty decisive ultimatum to the squad and the management …
|corkcitysaint added 10:01 - May 24|
My Kingdom for a defence!!
A frustrating game, a frustrating watch and a frustrating season..
McCarthy for me, has to go. He looks lost, short of confidence and can't command his area. Redmond, without going in to all the usual stuff, could be seen 15 mins in standing still, hands on hips, ball watching and get's caught offside! Enough said!! Has to go.
Defending. It's all very well and good playing a diagonal ball out of defence or intricate passing at the back but you have to be able to defend first and foremost. All that tippy tappy stuff can follow if you get the basics right.. I'd prefer a defender who puts his foot in or doesn't mind getting a smash in the face for doing what he's supposed to do and stop a goal! The modern day defender seems to think they are all Messi's.
If we were to buy even 4 just average players, they are going to be at least 20 million each. That's 80 million. As we have to sell to buy, I don't even know if we'd get 80 million in our clear-out. Therefore, we are looking at young, inexperienced but hopefully, hungry and competent young players that can fit in with our core.
The club have a tough summer ahead I feel and the hard work starts now.
|Nomaesaints added 10:04 - May 24|
I just want to ask one question:
Why was KWP taken off????
|dirk_doone added 10:06 - May 24|
Wessexman, Anyway at least there was one good result at the weekend. Congratulations to Saints legend, Jose Fonte, for leading Lille to the French League title, with the best defensive record in Europe. I wonder if he can cap that by winning another European Championship with Portugal this summer?
As for Saints' game, the less said the better. But, who on earth in his right mind would have picked McCarthy again???
|RedandWight added 10:19 - May 24|
Congratulations to Saints legend, Jose Fonte, for leading Lille to the French League title, with the best defensive record in Europe. I wonder if he can cap that by winning another European Championship with Portugal this summer?
Dirk_doone, I couldn't have put it better myself. I wonder if the irony is lost on some....
|kingolaf added 10:23 - May 24|
I would start by getting shot of Ralph. Ridiculous selections, tactics and substitutions.
He is the Nathan Redmond of manager’s.
|SanMarco added 10:32 - May 24|
Yes - a fair report and 'deja-vu', 'Groundhog Day' or whatever are the cliches that rightly come to mind. It is going to be a big summer (in terms of personnel and tactical decisions) because if we go on as we are we will be done for by Christmas.
Just a couple of points arising: I agree it is time for Redmond to go - some of the ridiculous hatred of him may be racially motivated but let's be brutally honest - although he has talent, he quite simply hasn't done enough on the pitch over five years. Full stop.
McCarthy is a lost cause - he needs to go.
And finally - although I totally agree on defensive lapses costing us, the cliche that goals change games is obviously true and 1-0 to us in that first half hour makes an enormous difference. Yes - West Ham defended better than us but they also (just like Leeds and several other opponents this year) were far sharper in attack than us. West Ham had few better chances in the game than the ones that Minamino messed up with poor touches. Whether Ings goes or stays goal scoring is just as important than fixing the defensive fiascos...
|ElijahK added 10:35 - May 24|
I sure am worried about relegation next season if Ings goes! As if he does go we’ll be relying on other teams to be less worse than ourselves! Really over summer we need to sign like 6/7 new players (along with more for every starting 11 players we sell!) but with Gao in charge we’ll be lucky to get like 3/4! I can see that loads of people are blaming Ralph and wanting him gone, but really who, could’ve done any better with the team and funding we have!? As it’s won’t matter who our manager is next season, unless Gao goes (or actually invests something) or Ings stays (nether of which see likely at all!
|DorsetIan added 10:36 - May 24|
The table is pretty clear. It's our defence that's let us down this season. We've conceded 68 goals which is 5 more than Sheffield Utd so even if you scratch the 3 that were unfairly conceded at Old Trafford after Bednarek was wrongly sent off, we've still conceded more than the bottom club. (Only West Brom, 76, have conceded more).
For me, yes, Bednarek and Vestergaard are not perfect but the real defensive issues have been - the loss of KWP for many games with no adequate replacement; the loss of Romeu for many games as a buffer in front of the back 2, with no adequate replacement; the loss of Bertrand for some games with no adequate replacement; and a manager who is primarily focused on an attacking style of play and who was simply unable to find solutions to our defensive problems (either week on week or during the games themselves).
Big summer ahead. The need to strengthen the squad has become an acute problem but how we're going to do that while this owner with his financial limitations is in charge is anyone's guess. And there is a chance that we will also lose Ings.
At least we can have a few weeks off from the regular grind of defeats that this season became!
|Farlow added 10:37 - May 24|
I thought Bednarek was very poor yesterday,and the substitutions bizarre.We might jusr as well have raised a white flag.Surely Tella should have started.
Its time to tear up the playbook and sack the author.
|halftimeorange added 10:40 - May 24|
Sadly, the feelgood factor we had watching Saints pre-Christmas has totally disappeared. I couldn't believe Tella wasn't in the starting line-up unless Ralph wanted further confirmation that Minamino is too lightweight for a team like ours which can't put many opportunities on a plate for our likely goalscorers, hence Danny Ings' anonymity yesterday. Like others, I thought the KWP substitution made no sense and Ralph has to stop playing round pegs in square holes, although he certainly needs more options. Playing JWP at RB and Salisu at LB made us weaker. As for McCarthy in goal, again I can only think this was for confirmation to shift him on in the summer. I see we are currently 9/2 to be relegated next season. Without some astute business by the board those odds will surely shorten once August looms.
|IanRC added 10:40 - May 24|
Hassenhutl needs to take his share of the blame for this abysmal performance. I have supported him when many turned against him but recently his decisions have been dreadful. From the immediate failure to start Tella or Obafemi and Foster in this game to the strategic disaster of wasting money on Walcott who try’s when things are going well only and has no end product, to his crazy tactical decisions he appears to have lost it completely. Really wonder whether we need a change now with more crazy talk of us trying to sign Minamo. Even our youth teams are performing dreadfully. I disagree Nick we are much better than this performance if the right players are picked in the right positions.
Also thought Salisu had his worst game by far, slow to react on a number of occasions resulting him being in trouble, was just waiting for a red card to be produced for one of late tackles. Referee was as usual useless failing to penalise them properly for a number of fouls but there is no escaping the fact that as with many recently this was a game we lost rather than one that was taken from us.
Also noted that the traitorous Les Reed has been sticking the boot in again. Looks like being a dismal summer unless things change.
|saintwizzler added 10:50 - May 24|
SanMarco - ‘time for Redmond to go - some of the ridiculous hatred of him may be racially motivated’ do me a favour. Wether he’s blue, green, black or white he has been shît all season. And getting in the way of Tella’s progression.
Hands on hips stood offside sums him up.
|saintmark1976 added 11:12 - May 24|
Yet another pathetic display from a side led by a man who in reference to team selection, match day tactics and substitutions has proven once again that he would be out of his depth if stood in a puddle. Our form since Christmas proves beyond any reasonable doubt that he has to go, let alone wishing to give Walcott and now Minamino further contacts.
I never thought I would say it but as a manager he’s worse than Branfoot
|teamster1 added 11:20 - May 24|
I cannot believe you are saying Ings had a bad game!!! If you dont get the service what are you supposed to do? He was frustrated because apart from Ings, Armstrong, KWP, JWP and Salisu we have a bunch of footballers who cannot read the game and have no intelligence whatsoever which is why the same mistakes are repeated game after game. I think Redmond lets himself down badly. I believe he has the talent but his attitude stinks, he thinks he is the finished article but he is kidding himself. As for the keeper I will repeat what I have said before. If you want to play out from the back you need a keeper who can play with the ball at his feet!! McCarthy is flat footed and Forster isnt much better. We need a new Keeper and get rid of the rubbish. If we could offload Redmond, Djnepo, Stephens, Vestergard, Obafemi, McCarthy, Gunn I would do it in a heart beat. Simply not good enough and have not improved one bit since they have been with us.
|ExiledSupporter added 11:40 - May 24|
Why play Redmond, Djenepo is faster and more energetic and better with the ball at his feet and makes tackles...ok he has much to learn but I can see progress this year. We cannot afford to play two of the group of players containing Redmond, Minamino, Walcott and Djenepo in the same game
We cannot keep on wasting opportunities to score in the way we have so often right through the season JWP rarely shoots in open play; the admirable Armstrong was very wide of the mark yesterday; Adams misses so many sitters (but brings other things to the party and is vital to supporting Ings).
We must have two defensive midfielders in front of the defence (Romeu and Diallo)
KWP is fantastic going forward and Bertrand's replacement must be likewise
Our four centrebacks do not seem to understand the fundamentals of concentration, positioning, stopping the opposition coming inside or anticipating their attacks. Which ones out of Bednarek, Vestergaard and Stephens should go...we certainly have no prospect or cash for replacing them all. Yet on occasions and for spells in a game they are each capable of some sound moments, Bednarek is high up the table for blocks for instance, well he would be given the opportunities for shots that we gift the opposition! Vestergard can be very effective at heading clear and his cross field passing is better than most defenders, Stephens failures are well documented but he's a good fall back though not a first choice. So we've got Salisu for the present. Perhaps the problem is that we simply don't have the coaching staff. In rugby union there are attack and defence coaches, perhaps this would be a good way forward...we seem to be overloaded with ex goalies who clearly don't make Forster or McCarthy all that much better at all
And yes...despite being a more or less consistent supporter of Ralf I am unable to explain or support some of his selections, substitutions or tactics which seem to be more erratic every game
Why are we clearly so feeble in some games Leeds (x2), notoriously at W Brom, WHam yesterday and Everton and the cup semi final.
If I was Ings I would not be able to think of any seriously good reasons for staying
But here's the truth, so many things have to change that it is impossible to imagine how we can manage the situation and emerge any better next season
Sadly I live a long way from Southampton and cannot justify a season ticket and travel costs etc though in the past I have often imagined living nearer and being proud to attend every home game. If that dream were to be a reality, I am now not sure that I would contemplate buying a season ticket, I'm just relieved that I don't actually have that dilemma!
|JoeEgg added 11:47 - May 24|
So the season ended with more poor performances and results against Leeds and West Ham. Ralph calls for a reality check and claims we need to improve massively or face relegation next season. In contrast Nick tells us we underperformed by just one League position and that the successes of teams like Leicester, Leeds and West ham are down to larger stadiums and better resources! We made it to the FA Cup Semi Final - largely on the back of victories against reserve sides - and then didn't bother to turn up for the BIg Match.
I like Ralph and his enthusiasm and passion, but surely a manager who has witnessed two 9-0 defeats, the worst record of successive Premier League defeats that most can remember, some puzzling team selections and use of substitutes, and playing tactics that clearly do not work with this squad- is very lucky to still be in his position for another season. We have very limited opportunities for improving next year especially with an Academy that has been in effective decline for many months now and a Board that will soon be reminding the manager that there will be no money to spend on replacements for those that Ralph claims may have played their last game for the Club!
I have supported this Club for as long if not longer than Nick. I refuse to accept his 'accolade' that we were only one position below where we were entitled to be this season! Under Poch and Koemans I, like many others, were proud of our football club and the results the players were achieving. I would like to see Ralph find someone to work alongside him. He needs support and a lot of help - of course, its too much to hope for a Hassenhuttl/Howe partnership? We need to look for players with appetite as well and quality and not worry about spending too many millions. Above all we need people running this club with ambition and an active desire to take this great football club BEYOND a 14th place that apparently some believe is the most we are entitled to expect.
|SaintPaulVW added 12:13 - May 24|
I switched off after the third goal. If I had been in the stadium I probably for the first time in my life would have left early.
It's been a hard season. The team we saw playing in November that dominated games was virtually the same team playing yesterday and for periods you could see it. However it is almost too painful to watch at times.
I really don't see why McCarthy or Minamino were starting yesterday. I cannot believe we are going to sign Minamino and after the last game Forster deserved a place.
Similarly the changing formation to allow KWP to go forwards has already been twigged. CB's get confused about the channels WH exploited this.
Salisu played well, WH were booing him which is a good sign.
We were good for long periods but the lack of any cutting edge is as much to blame for losing yesterday as the defensive errors. 4 great chances missed.
Several players who we all know are good seemed to have been on the beach/at their next club already.
As normal, Redmond will come in for a mass of criticism but he had several accomplices yesterday who will get off unscathed.
I'm going to be charitable and say everyone was burnt out after a long season and not really having much to play for reduced our motivation. However we've seen this performance too many times to not be alarmed.
Do people really think a new owner will arrive, pump masses of money into the club, we will sell 12 players and buy 8 more?. I don't. I can see next season being another tough season until various contracts expire and the wage bill is rebalanced.
I am not despondent but there is a lot of work to be done in the off-season and a few 'must have' recruits need to be in place.
|WestSussexSaint added 12:35 - May 24|
I agree with much of what has been commented above.
On Redmond - yes he had a very poor game yesterday and no he wasn’t alone in that or guilty for all the goals, although I blame home for the second where he messed up the clearance allowing the cross to come in before the centre backs were set. The issue is that yesterday’s match wasn’t a one off. Indeed this season wasn’t a one off either. His standard has deteriorated over two or three years now and is still declining.
On Ings - when he was subbed yesterday you could read his face in that “do I really want to sign up to more of this crap?”. I for one don’t believe he wants to be sitting on the bench at a big six club but you can imagine Leicester or West Ham being a more attractive proposition than Saints are at the moment.
On the defence - yes they have had a very poor 2021 but this was largely the same group who were so good in the first half of the season. The issue has been missing Romeu. Even in his cameo role yesterday he looked calm, composed and did the simple things well. We know JWP and Armstrong don’t have the same skills. Diallo still looks too raw. Players like Romeu make a massive difference to a side so we need to have cover for him. We must also address the left back position so there is balance with KWP on the right.
On the Goalkeepers - in the same way the defence needs a solid defensive midfielder so the GK needs a decent defence in front. Out of the two I think Forster has edged it but I don’t agree that you completely write off McCarthy as a back up.
On Ralph - in the main he has been supported by the majority this season and I think he will have this summer to get his plans in place for the new season. What I am sure about is that he cannot afford a slow start to next season. Continuation of the results from 2021 will see him gone before Christmas.
|mancuniansaint added 12:42 - May 24|
Not going to comment on the season as a whole, nor the match itself except for one single incident which had me furious (and which I've not seen mentioned anywhere else). Nick has rightly commented on Vestergaard's lack of awareness for the Hammers' second goal, but take a look at his performance for the third. While Bednarek chases Rice desperately in vain, trying to make up for his mistake, Vestergaad is ambling back in the centre of the box, unaware or uncaring about the goal threat, making no attempt to accelerate and cover across for Bednarek until much too late, and even pointing and looking across to the opposite side of the pitch! Yes, we were 2-0 down at the time, but there is no excuse for that kind of unprofessionalism. To me, it ranks worse than the Redmond incident. I was undecided till now about JV, but on the basis of that one experience, he has to be part of any clear-out.
|TimSaint added 12:50 - May 24|
It wasn't that long ago that you were talking of taking games in groups of 3 and aiming to get 5 points from these groups. Now 15th is about right ? That is massively moving the goalposts !!
Our defence (including Keeper) really is the gift that keeps on giving (2nd worst, away from home in the league !!), so much so that teams just have to wait for us to gift them chances, but it is also our failure to take chances (to go ahead and to kill games off) that have cost us dearly this season.
All our hard work in the first half of the season has been undone by a combination of injuries (we beat Liverpool with 6 out though), poor tactics, 'focusing on the cup' only to fail to turn up in the semi, poor substitutions, picking the same under-performing players every week, a mistake ridden defence and abysmal finishing.
Wholesale changes are required this summer. Need to get rid of more than 12 players who won't ever feature for the 1st XI. Hesketh is already on his way.......
We don't have the money, but we need a 1st choice Keeper, LB, CB, Striker and 2 x Wide men upgrades.
I'm fairly sure Wolves have a smaller ground than us - but would need to check !! :-)
|Block8 added 13:09 - May 24|
Totally agree with mancuniansaint in the comment on the third goal, I was absolutely fuming at such clueless defending. Sell Vestegaard and look for a decent experienced CB who is out of contract or on loan for a season. we need to develop our young defenders.
Formulate an alternative plan for when teams suss out our game plan, which most have, Leeds being the latest. West Ham we just folded! AND not keep picking players who are underperforming as this sends the wrong message, if you are continually being picked when playing crap, where's the incentive to play better. Also how does that make the guys sat on the bench feel if no matter how hard you try you are basically ignored!
I am so uncertain about Ralph right now because I don't know how much is the players and how much is him, poor team selection and outrageously poor substitutions!
|zonehead added 13:57 - May 24|
I’m willing to give Ralph another season due to late finish of last season and the first half of this season, just that we ran out of steam and injuries and some genuine bad luck combined to make a poor finish I hope I’m right
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Tonight, Colchester United face Southend United in what may not necessarily be the most important game of our respective histories (though it’s certainly very close), but is almost certainly the most important Essex derby ever. However this season pans out, by the end of it there’ll either be only one team in Essex, or worst case scenario, none at all. If the U’s win, then Southend will be 9pts behind with just three games to go, and a minimum of a -12 goal difference to overturn if they want to overtake us. Certainly mathematically possible, but that would rely on a remarkable turnaround in their form, form that they’ve shown precious little sign of achieving so far this season. The stalking horse is Grimsby, with their game in hand, who have rather belatedly shown an improvement in form, so their match against automatic promotion chasing Morecambe tonight is equally important, particularly if we want to avoid the unthinkable, with both Essex clubs dropping out of the league.
Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.