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Southampton 3 v 1 Birmingham City
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 28th October 2023 Kick-off 12:30
Southampton V Birmingham City The Verdict
Sunday, 29th Oct 2023 10:13

Over the last few weeks Saints have been quietly getting on with the job of putting a run together that has seen them move up the table into the play off places, this was another big step in showing their doubters they can be genuine promotion contenders.

There were a few raised eyebrows at 11.30 am when the team news came out, Ryan Manning was back in the squad but not in the team, with James Bree preferred at left back and also restored to the starting line up were Stuart Armstrong, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Charly Alcatraz & Kamaldeen Sulemana.

This suggested that Russell Martin was going for the attacking option, but was also shoring up the back line a little by including the more defensive minded Bree.

This paid early dividends Adam Armstrong put in a superb cross from the left touchline that was met perfectly by Taylor Harwood-Bellis to head home, ironically TV replays showed that the Saints man was slightly offside, but with no VAR there was no hanging around to find out and the linesman's flag had stayed down.

So 1-0 up after only 9 minutes was a great start and it got better on 22 minutes when Sulemana was the provider and again a perfect low cross saw Charly Alcaraz slot home from close range.

Now it was all Southampton FC and although they were not the greatest team that the World will ever see, they were pushing Wayne Rooney's Blues onto the back foot and a third goal looked likely.

Adam Armstrong raced through only to fire wide with just the keeper to beat and Saints were in control.

But there was one worrying moment, Burke for the visitors got to the ball first and was felled by Gavin Bazunu, luckily for Saints again there was no VAR, otherwise the half time scoreline might well have been 1-1 and not 2-0 to the home side.

The second half started with Saints in control, but just before the hour mark came the obligatory lack of concentration and a sloppy goal conceded, Birmingham had only one tactic and that was to hump it up field, on came Jay Stansfield to join Southampton born Lukas Jutkiewicz up front.

Within seconds of his arrival came another hoofed ball up field and when it fell to Kyle Walker Peters, rather than clear it he attempted to control it and Stansfield pounced and fired home a goal that had not looked likely, in fairness to KWP this was a rare error from the full back.

Birmingham suddenly saw the light and for a period pushed forward, but Saints got their grip back and used possession football as a way of calming the situation.

But the crowd were understandably edgy, but although their nerves were jangling those on the pitch kept calm and they took control again, the game was made safe when yet another great cross into the box, this time from Ryan Fraser was headed down by Sam Edozie and Adam Armstrong pounced to fire home from the edge of the six yard box. on 86 minutes.

So overall this was not quite the perfect performance from Saints, but it was another good one, 4 weeks ago they were under fire after 4 straight defeats, but since then we have played 6 games of which we have won 4 and drawn the other 2 and in doing so pushed ourselves up into 4th place.

But in those 6 games we have sorted out our defensive woes, indeed it could be said that this has been the case over the last two games of that 4 game losing streak, in the last 8 games we have conceded just 9 goals, yes perhaps it needs to be a little better, but we are getting there.

The early issue of this run was scoring goals, now having built a foundation from the back we are finding our scoring boots, in this 6 game unbeaten run its just 6 goals conceded and 12 scored, these are very pleasing facts.

Russell Martin has used his squad well and this is why we are now flourishing, compare our substitutions with Birmingham's, we brought on quality in Ryan Fraser, rising stars such as Shea Charles and Same Edozie and the experience of Joe Aribo, Birmingham had 33 year old veteran Marc Roberts, 31 year old's Scott Hogan & Gary Gardner, free transfer Koji Miyoshi and the goal scorer 20 year old loanee Jay Stansfield.

This was a similar situation at Hull & Preston, our depth of squad will see us home in the second half of games.

This was very much a team performance, the balance was perfect both in the starting line up and also the substitutions made, in the first half it was attacking mode and also covering the defensive limitations offered by Sulemana by playing James Bree behind him, a defender rather than wing back.

In the second half we made key changes and brought on players who were not so free spirited as either Charly Alcatraz or Sulemana who could help see the game out.

It was hard to name a man of the match, the sponsors named Jan Bednarek, I could not see that myself, although the Pole had a good game, perhaps the fact I barely noticed him suggests that he had a good game and he is forming a partnership with Taylor Harwood-Bellis that at the moment looks like being the one that will see us through the season.

For me our best players was Adam Armstrong, not only did he put in the perfect hanging cross for THB's headed goal, but he worked his socks off and made a contribution defensively, all capped off by the late goal that meant we didn't have to worry in the final stages.

He has been a key player this season, his 8 goals see him 2nd highest scorer in the Championship only 1 behind Sunderland's Jack Clarke, he is the 22nd highest provider of assists in the division, and 2nd in the Saints squad, only Sulemana with 3 has more than his 2.

His overall work rate perhaps goes unseen by some, but it is phenomenal, so for me he edges man of the match and is an early contender for player of the season.

So a pleasing weekend and now we have to keep building on the good work of the last month, the first job is to make sure that we are putting daylight between us and 7th place and so are nailed on for a play off spot, after that we have to keep on hunting down the top 2, Leicester look strong enough to last the course, but Ipswich may struggle as winter takes it's toll on their squad.

Photo: Action Images



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mattlegod added 10:46 - Oct 29
Great result after a long week in terms of miles travelled. Really good performance although I can't help thinking we could have killed the game off much earlier if we didn't tippy tap around the box so much in the last 20mins of the first half.

I was really bouyed by the vocal support in the second half when things were getting a bit edgy, the atmosphere died for a while but those who took it upon themselves to start the support should be congratulated as it seemed to spur the team back on rather than having a stadium of jangling nerves.
11

JoeEgg added 11:07 - Oct 29
Yes a pleasing weekend maybe and three points from a home game is a very pleasant and welcome change! However it is disappointing that with over 70% possession and against some struggling opposition, we managed just 11 shots in the entire game! Goals are appearing from all directions but how much more effective it would be if we had a Danny Ings type striker. We still haven't seen Stewart - he just might make all the difference.
Our wide players continue to catch the eye but seldom provide the finished product. Maybe the presence of Stewart will change this too!
Defensively there is no arguiung that Harwood-Bellis and Bednarek are doing a good job together - improving each game with better understanding. The problem comes when one of them gets injured or is rested - there are no obvious replacements.
Everthing is so tight after the top two in the Championship League Table. I still believe with the squad we have, that the Russell Martin style reduces the effectiveness of our performance and stifles the attacking potential. We seem to have better strength in depth than most other Clubs, and no long list of injuries. There is a great deal of mediocrity in the Championship this season so there can be no excuses if we dont threaten the top two by end of season.
6

halftimeorange added 12:36 - Oct 29
A distinct pattern is developing. We start effectively, outplay the opposition for about half an hour, take our foot off the pedal and limp into halftime, following which we sink deeper and deeper into defence, produce a nervy period of tip-tap football, invariably concede and spend a nervy half hour trying to finish the game. The difference this time were the substitutions proving to be effective so, no last-minute heroics needed. RM has got to get the players to be positive during these mid-game lapses. Just to say I thought Downes was our best player and a shout out today for the much-maligned Joe Aribo. I thought he did pretty well for his thirty minutes.
7

halftimeorange added 12:36 - Oct 29
A distinct pattern is developing. We start effectively, outplay the opposition for about half an hour, take our foot off the pedal and limp into halftime, following which we sink deeper and deeper into defence, produce a nervy period of tip-tap football, invariably concede and spend a nervy half hour trying to finish the game. The difference this time were the substitutions proving to be effective so, no last-minute heroics needed. RM has got to get the players to be positive during these mid-game lapses. Just to say I thought Downes was our best player and a shout out today for the much-maligned Joe Aribo. I thought he did pretty well for his thirty minutes.
2

WestSussexSaint added 12:41 - Oct 29
I agree with the point about Motm. Bednarek was solid and I like his partnership with THB with every passing match but he was solid and nothing more. For me the outstanding player of the match was Flynn Downes who wasn’t even mentioned in the write up. He is fast becoming a critical player for us. He drives the play forward and it’s no coincidence that our defensive improvement has aligned with him starting to hold down that CDM role as his own.
8

landsdownsaint added 12:55 - Oct 29
Fair play to those who could see what RM was doing at the club becouse I was having trouble seeing it . We gotta back him he’s got the right idea & looks as if the players are loving it , not one bad performance out there yesterday & no one can hold anything against KWP for his mistake coz that lad is brilliant for us
3

IanRC added 13:12 - Oct 29
Don’t know what your issue with Sulemana is Nick, I thought he tracked back well on several occasions yesterday. He would be the first name on the team sheet for me if fit as he has that rare ability to cause panic and unlock defences.
2

Bowlercow added 14:18 - Oct 29
This should be making Russell Martin's job easy when it comes to selecting a starting eleven but such were the performances of all the substitutes he will need to give it some very serious thought
Unlike previous years if a key man gets suspended under the totting up procedure we now appear to have adequate replacements. The boss has also shown that if you get a chance and take it you will keep the spot.
2

highfield49 added 14:24 - Oct 29
My eyebrows were amongst those raised when the team was announced at 1130, not with doubts about the selections but because it looked like the manager was picking the strongest team on merit rather than misplaced loyalty. There were solid performances all round, definitely by Downes, and Bree looked comfortable in the left back role.
Let's be honest there aren't many, if any, teams who don't go off the boil at some point in a game. The best teams ride it out and don't concede goals, all too frequently we do fold under pressure and make unforced errors. In my view Russell Martin doesn't read or react to the signs quickly enough and I'd like to see tactical changes, or substitutions, made before the cracks have widened too far. Too many goals have been given away following tactical changes or player substitutions made by the opposition. Whilst I accept it's not always easy to adapt to change it's surely the manager's role to read the game and reorganise players on the pitch as soon as possible?
Like the majority of supporters I'm eagerly awaiting to see what impact Ross Stewart will have when he's finally fit enough to join the squad. Whilst the current players are good enough to make the play off positions I'm hoping RS is going to lift us beyond that into the automatic promotion places, time will tell.
1

SaintPaulVW added 14:36 - Oct 29
After 2 questionable decisions in our favour, our luck has probably evened out a bit.

As said above, our squad is one big advantage that should see us able to ride out several injuries to key members. Ipswich, may be playing well now, but are unlikely to be able to go all season injury free.

RM, although not admitting it, is adapting his tactics, giving all the players some game time and the squad is starting to gel on the pitch.

Things are looking good so far.

COYR

1

SanMarco added 20:58 - Oct 29
Pleasing performance. I would give Downes the MOTM and most others played well.

Yes - it was a penalty but as Rooney himself said: the better team won. As for offside - he was level and so without all the lines being drawn it has to be onside. Before VAR this sort of thing was just on the lino. He decided it was level.

I like that RM seems to be adapting. Let's hope we can keep on an upward trajectory.
1


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