|Southampton 1 v 1 Rotherham United|
Saturday, 7th October 2023 Kick-off 15:00
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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Blogs 31 bloggers
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Knees-up Mother Brown #13 by wessex_exile
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Knees-up Mother Brown #12 by wessex_exile
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Knees-up Mother Brown #11 by wessex_exile
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Knees-up Mother Brown #10 by wessex_exile
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