|Preston North End 2 v 2 Southampton|
Wednesday, 25th October 2023 Kick-off 19:45
Southampton At Preston North End The Verdict
Thursday, 26th Oct 2023 10:53
Saints once again scrambled a goal in the dying minutes of injury time, this time to rescue a point at Deepdale with a header from goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu that deflected into the net from the home sides Ched Evans.
There were several changes from the side that started at Hull, there was no Taylor Harwood-Bellis in the back line and Ryan Manning was sitting out the game through suspension, Mason Holgate & James Bree replacing them, these changes were enforced, but further up the field Sam Edozie & Che Adams came in for Stuart Armstrong and Sulemana, with these two both on the bench.
Preston started the day a point ahead of Saints and the 1,549 Southampton supporters who made the 500 mile round trip on a Wednesday evening were hoping for a win that would push us not only back into the top 6 after the previous night's results, but potentially 3rd.
Preston started the stronger and looked to be hitting Saints before they got out of the traps, but as the game went on we grew into it and seemed to be finding our feet despite the four changes. However it still needed a smart save from Gavin Bazunu to keep the scores level.
So although Kyle Walker Peters stunning shot on 33 minutes came out of the blue, it was not a shock and now Saints were looking good for their 1-0 lead, but it again needed Bazunu to be the hero with a save from point blank range that he somehow kept out.
The second half saw Che Adams off and Sekou Mara on and initially it looked comfortable for Saints, I have seen some criticism of this change, but truthfully Adams did little in the first half and Mara was no worse in the second, it didn't change the game either way.
but on 52 minutes the home side were level, we defended the corner well, but our issue here was we left no one outside the box to clean up and Osmajic had plenty of time to fire a low shot through a crowd of players in the box to equalise, viewing it on a replay, there are far too many of our players marking thin air.
But it got worse 3 minutes later Preston down the right and although he tried his best to keep up, experience told and Potts held him off and fired home past Bazunu.
Now Preston had their heckles up and could see a win, we again made multiple changes, but we were struggling to keep shape and although Sulemana had a lot of the ball he could not use it with any effect.
So as injury time loomed things looked dire, but this is Southampton and we have a never say die attitude, our possession game at times may not please some, but it does wear down team and that is why we score so many late goals.
But with only seconds of the 6 minutes extra to be played it was last chance saloon as we got a corner, in truth I did not see Bazunu come up for the corner, but suddenly there was a flash of pink or whatever colour his shirt is called and the ball was in the net and almost 1,600 Saints supporters went wild.
So yet another point gained at the death and that might count come the end of the season.
So what is the general verdict, firstly I am surprised that with two out in the back four we made two further changes, I know it is tiring for players to play 3 games in a week, even more so when we have to travel over a thousand miles to play two of them.
But it should be to take every game as it comes and that should have meant our best team starting the game.
In defence I thought Mason Holgate did well, given how little football he has played, not just since arriving at St Mary's but in the previous year or more at Everton, he slotted in well.
Now the next paragraph may be upsetting for some, but I thought we missed Ryan Manning !
James Bree slotted in at left back and I didn't think he had two bad a game overall, but in the final half hour as we were chasing the game, it was not his type of game, he is not a wing back, he is a defender fairly and squarely, yes he got forward and he tried to overlap etc, but it just wasn't his type of game.
Not a criticism of Bree, but we needed width and people who could get in crosses, that better suited Manning than Bree.
On 72 minutes when Flynn Downes went off for Ryan Fraser, perhaps that should have seen Bree depart instead.
At this stage we were enjoying a lot of possession, we could have sacrificed a defender for an attacking option.
There will be those who disagree and there will be those who will see this as a poor result, I can see their point in some respects, but in others I would disagree, we are away from home against a team above us in the table, we are missing key players, perhaps we should have done better, but Preston are a hard side to beat and have lost only 3 times this season, this was a point well earned in the end.
Before the weekend we would have seen 4 points from two tough away trips as a good return, it still is, we are now getting together a run of games without defeat, that is 5 in total, we are in the play off spots, there is room for improvement I agree, but we will get stronger as the season progresses.
Some will also say we are in a false position, that all these late goals have saved our skins, but a goal is a goal whatever time in the match it is scored, Liverpool & Manchester United dominated English football from nigh on 35 years by scoring late goals and there was a reason for it and that is keeping the ball and wearing down the opposition.
So some good work at Preston in the main, now we have to put our foot on the gas and beat Birmingham on Saturday .
The final word should be on the superb support up at Deepdale, a 500 mile round trip on a Wednesday evening and nearly 1.600 made the trip, few would have been home before 2.30am.
Add to that the fact that many of these made a similar length journey on Saturday to Hull, that means for some they have travelled over 1,000 miles to follow the team in just 5 days and that should be applauded.
Photo: Action Images
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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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