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Southampton V Rotherham United The Verdict
Monday, 9th Oct 2023 09:31

This was another game where Saints started so well but just couldn't find a second goal to kill off the game, but no one said that this division is going to be easy and despite the outcry by some, we are still just one point off the play offs.

This was a game that could not have started in a better manner, firstly the news that Charly Alcaraz had signed a new deal, secondly that Russell Martin didn't make wholesale changes to the team that had beaten Stoke City, the only change being Alcaraz out for Che Adams and then scoring a goal before 2 minutes were up on the clock.

That saw some brilliant work from Kyle Walker Peters who crossed perfectly for Che Adams who thumped a header against the post, the ball then fell to Stuart Armstrong who fired home from close range.

The perfect start, the visitors had come to park the bus and their game plan was undone from the very start.

The rest of the first half would be one way traffic and Johansson in the Millers goal would be the man of the match.

Saints thought they had a second when a ball from Will Smallbone saw Adam Armstrong deftly flick it home, but the linesman's flag was already up.

Half time came and there was a delay for a medical emergency in the crowd, sadly I think the afflicted man is now very ill in hospital, our thoughts are with his family.

The second half continued in the same way as the first, Rotherham had a 5-4-1 formation and the 1 spent most of his time very deep.

The visitors had a game plan still and that was prevent a second and see what happens.

Saints passed the ball around, and found it hard to break down the Rotherham defence and midfield who sat back resolutely and didn't allow much chance to get in behind them, when we did Johansson was in fine form, of 22 attempts by Saints, 10 of them were on target.

Johansson made three outstanding stops, the best of which was a header by Che Adams.

Just after the hour mark, Russell Martin made 3 changes at once, I found this strange, we were well in command, it should surely have been about the odd tweak, off went both Armstrong's & Sulemana, perhaps our best three players over the last week and on came Alcaraz, Edozie & Fraser.

At this stage I think complacency had set in with the manager, taking off the three players who had been involved in all 5 of the goals scored in the last 7 days was not good thinking, making a change to bring on Alcaraz would be understandable, even 2 changes, but making 3 upset the balance and whilst we were still adapting Rotherham drew level, before they did though there was that man Johansson to deny Will Smallbone from close range with another stunning save.

The Rotherham goal saw a lack of concentration, a Rotherham player went down injured in what was clearly a time wasting ploy, they kicked it out for a throw, at Stoke when we had kicked the ball out for an injury they refused to give it back, but we are more sporting than that.

However we calmly just threw the ball back to their keeper, what we should have done was throw it to one of our players making it clear that we were going to give it back to them and then hit it back to their keeper perhaps just wide o the goal to slow things down.

Instead their keeper was on the front foot for once and launched the ball forward, we were caught on the hop and as we headed clear their man lobbed the ball over Gavin Bazunu.

Some would say that Harwood - Bellis should have got a better header to clear the ball, TV replays showed us that his shirt was being pulled, VAR would have ruled this one out, some would say Bazunu was off his line, but being on the edge of the 6 yard box was just where he should have been, the fact was that Hugill just executed the perfect lob to equalize for Rotherham.

Whatever the reason we lapsed in concentration in how we gave the ball back and how we defended.

Then the bus was really parked, but now chasing the game Saints were without their main attacking option in Adam Armstrong, the man who can pull the strings in Stuart Armstrong and a winger with genuine pace in Sulemana.

Edozie and Fraser huffed and puffed but we lacked the real punch that we now needed.

We almost snatched it at the end and only some last ditch goalkeeping and defending meant that Rotherham took the point they had fought so hard for.

The mood on social media has not been positive, the accusation is that we reverted back to possession football we weren't direct enough, but I am not sure that is entirely accurate, yes we had a lot of possession, yes we passed it a lot, but we were doing so mainly in the opposition half.

We had to break down basically two walls of defenders, if we had just humped the ball forward then we would have played into their hands.

In the main yes we had a slow build up, but it was controlled and about keeping the ball and not giving Rotherham the loose pass they were looking for to break.

We were winning the game, the pressure was on Rotherham to stay in the game by not conceding a second.

The 22 attempts on goal, 10 on target show that we had plenty of attacking play, but I can see why the frustration is surfacing again.

However the reality is that had we won would be in the play off position, but we didn't win, but we are still only one point off the top six and that means we are nicely poised .

Games like this are frustrating, but individual games will always see poor results and conversely good ones as well, winning promotion is about grinding things out.

As we walked into St Mary's for the Leeds game, if someone had told us that we would take 7 points from the 3 games to be played in the next week, we would have snapped their hands off at that, it is just that we wouldn't have predicted the way we would have earned them.

So this is a disappointment, it is a set back, but it is not a disaster, we have a good squad, but it is still learning and the same could be said about Russell Martin as well, I didn't see this as a return to the type of game we played in the early games of the season, I saw this as a blip on the landscape, one kick changed this game, if it hadn't happened then we would now be firmly in the top six and looking upwards.

We are still looking upwards but patience is needed.

I don't look at games in isolation, I look at them as part of a bigger picture, hence I am not up and down with each win or defeat, if we had won this one 1-0 I would not have thought that Russell Martin was the best manager we have ever had, conversely I don't think he is the worst one either when we lose a game.

I look at todays League table and although at first glance it doesn't look great as we are in 10th, I look at the points total first and foremost and how far we are off the place we want to be. It should be noted that Preston in 3rd are only 3 points above us, at the moment only 6 teams have more points than us and we have to keep plugging away to change that.

At the moment automatic promotion doesn't look achievable, but there are still 35 games left to play, but the play offs is very doable, we are only a point away from that, the next two games are very important though, Hull are on the same points as us and then it is Preston as mentioned 3 points ahead, this is one of those points in the season when we can put our foot on the gas.

Photo: Action Images

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Centurion added 09:40 - Oct 9
Agreed. Very frustrating but we have to learn and sometimes the hard way.
6 points from the next two games would look like putting us in a very credible top 8 position.

Ifonly added 10:01 - Oct 9
Good first half, terrible second. RM just reverted to what he is comfortable with, which is basically pointless passing. We should have been out of sight but we barely created any chances because that isn't a priority for RM. He's more worried that if we try something positive we might lose the ball. As a result, we don't do anything positive, we just recycle possession.

In trendy modern circles this is called "good" football. It isn't. It's c**p. Good football means scoring goals which we don't seem very interested in sometimes. Good football is attractive to watch. This is painful to watch.

halftimeorange added 10:26 - Oct 9
The view from my seat saw this game lost due to our playing totally boring football rather than persistently battering one of the very weakest teams in the Championship. There was a period of around twelve minutes at the start of the second half where we played the ball around on the Kingsland side halfway line without losing possession and without making any forward progress. We looked vulnerable against Leeds when they pulled one back, we could easily have lost two penalties and the game at Stoke and, therefore, the Rotherham equaliser when it came was of no great surprise. I think we should put aside the rose-tinted spectacles until the Saints start playing their game with an end result. It was obvious on Saturday that the quality of our players was far superior to theirs but, the still baffling tactics cost us three points and will cost us a lot more. No wonder Che wants away in January. Every forward dart he made against a pedestrian defence was not met with a pass over the top but, yet another ineffectual tap sideways. Much of our play is simply too dull.

saintmark1976 added 10:29 - Oct 9
Firstly, and most importantly, my thoughts are with the victim and family of the medical emergency. Football is of no importance whatsoever compared to their current troubles.

A special call out also to the Rotherham keeper who did his best to get the play stopped.

Turning to Saturday’s game. Ridiculous, unnecessary triple substitutions cost us another two points.

Four wins and a draw behind Leicester and three wins and two draws adrift of Ipswich and it’s only the first week of October.

Our team is going nowhere because they are managed by a man who has never been anywhere.

Farlow added 10:44 - Oct 9
I Hope Ross Stewart becomes available soon because we need a talisman and focal point of attack.

Bowlercow added 10:58 - Oct 9
Like most sides we struggle against teams who park the bus With the pace we have we should be trying more balls over the top rather than trying too pass through them. Not ever attack obviously but certainly more than we do

I haven't given up on us yet and I have always claimed that the most exciting way to get promoted is via the play offs but we must be well established in the top six by the half way point

Block8 added 12:02 - Oct 9
I don't like the booing chaps, that does nothing for the players confidence, lifts the opposition and is therefore counter productive. However saying that I watched the Arsenal v City game yesterday and was able to read my book whilst it was on, it was that turgid. The reason I added that is because this is the way we played second half, risk averse possession football and it's not much to look at. We need to be able to make tactical changes when teams sit deeper and hit long balls. I admit it was a lucky goal and we should have had a few first half but we have the players to beat anyone in the Championship, RM has to find a way to do so.

landsdownsaint added 12:08 - Oct 9
No excuses for dreadful decisions from RM . Rotherham were poor & it’s totally not the players faults , when Rotherham made the tactical substitution he didn’t adapt , RM is a work in progress & SR have lumped us with that , for me he isn’t a hood manager but he’s an outstanding coach , some of those passsges of play are outstanding but if he loses KWP he’s in bother 1st half was brilliant … sums him up really , half a game & halfway in the table

DellBoyWally added 12:35 - Oct 9
Nick's reports are becoming more like the manager's statements or a club press release!
Oh dear, they parked the bus, how are we supposed to score?
They came with 1 point and the worst defensive record in the league. They are the only team to have conceded more than us!! So 9 of their previous opponents have managed to score against a parked bus, why can't we?
Maybe a coach could have watched videos of the previous games and seen how everyone else scored?
But no, we have a manager who sticks to his boring tactics, who has the same Nuthin Jones mentality of "I know best" and won't/can't listen to/accept alternatives.
All this "we are only x points from a play-off spot/out of 3rd" crap. WE WANT/EXPECT PROMOTION not platitudes and excuses. We are one of the biggest and strongest teams in the division hovering in 10th place while the top two stretch the distance from us.
We have Hull away next, unbeaten at home. followed by Preston with 4 wins at home. And people are naivley thinking we're going to stroll to 6 points!!
Well, not unless the manager totally changes tactics and learns how to play football.

wibbersda added 13:03 - Oct 9
We haven't been able to break down teams for the last 4 years, and I can't see that changing. The game turned when Alcaraz came on. 1st touch lost the ball and was forced to chase back. These mistakes then continued til the end. I think his over-enthusiasm after signing a new contract made his head wobble. Having said that, we know that this was RM fault for so many unnecessary subs.

codge added 14:37 - Oct 9
The most common sayings in these reports week after week are we lost concentration,well it’s about time we learned to concentrate for 90 minutes it’s not that difficult.

IanRC added 16:19 - Oct 9
I agree entirely with your thoughts Nick in that Martin was mad to take off his three best players and unbalance the team when we were well on top. Not the disaster that some think but a worrying sign that he is still underperforming.

harrapuk added 17:54 - Oct 9
The fact that we are 1 point off of the play off positions is irrelevant because if we cannot even beat a team that has failed in all previous away matches then what makes you think that we have the potential to maintain or improve our position?

The facts so far show that we are bang average and Leicester and Ipswich are running away with it.

The crowd's frustration is understandable when Leicester can win 10 from 11 and we can't even manage 3 successive victories.

obelisk added 21:53 - Oct 9
"we are nicely poised"

Are we? I also prefer not to look at games in isolation. The last 7 games have returned two wins and seven points. I'd say we're nicely poised for mid table and nowhere near the play-offs, let alone automatic promotion.

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