|Millwall 0 v 1 Southampton|
Saturday, 4th November 2023 Kick-off 15:00
Southampton V Millwall The Verdict
Sunday, 5th Nov 2023 10:40
Last season most Sunday's were spent in despair after yet another poor result, indeed we won only 4 weekend fixtures in the Premier League last season, yet here we are winning 3 weeks in a row as it starts to become just another Saturday on a winning run.
Saints are fast gaining a reputation as a team that wins games late on, indeed of our 8 wins so far in the Championship, 4 have been won with winners in the dying minutes of the game, add to that 2 other games that have seen last minute equalisers and we have gained 10 points from these late late goals.
Some would say we are a lucky side, that without this luck we would be lower mid table, but I think they would be wrong, in football you often make your own luck and this isn't the first time I have stated this, but we wear sides down and the depth of the squad means that we are far stronger than our opponents in the final 20 minutes or so of a game.
So as the game headed into injury time at the Den there were many Saints fans who had faith in their side to repeat the late goals of the previous 3 games, although I would say that as we headed into the 3rd minute of injury time that faith was fast waning and most would feel that keeping only the 2nd clean sheet of the season was going to be the highlight.
The truth was that although the first half was fairly even and Millwall had rattled our cross bar, in the main we had controlled the second period and although we had poured forward and got shots in, some good goalkeeping from former Saint Bart Bialkowski kept the scores level.
But this is a team that plays to the final whistle and they proved that again , Millwall might have thought that they were over the line but Saints didn't agree with them, Adam Armstrong kept running till the bitter end and when he was played through in the 93rd minute he did well to pull the ball back, he hadn't given it up for dead and when the ball came back to him off a defender, he had time to pick out Ryan Fraser who fired a low shot from an acute angle to win the game and cue pandemonium amongst the 3,000 travelling Saints supporters.
They had seen their side battle against a home side who in their previous 11 games had only won 3 games, but had only been beaten in 3 as well, it was never going to be an easy game and this proved to be the case, so the fact that we dominated it for so long and restricted them to just one shot on target and that rattling of the cross bar was pleasing.
Perhaps the biggest reason for that was the partnership formed between Jan Bednarek and Taylor Harwood-Bellis, they were solid and were the foundation that we have built our good form on and the fact that for the first time in his Saints career Gavin Bazunu has a consistent reliable defence in front of him, it is not surprising that he is starting to show just why we bought him.
On the flanks Kyle Walker Peters was his usual marauding self and James Bree on the other side steady and reliable and the contrast between the two seems to benefit us, we are not caught on the break so often now and that is great to see.
In the centre of midfield Flynn Downes and Will Smallbone called the shots, the latter has some critics still, but his job is just to be steady, win the ball and get it to others quickly, this is an unsung role, Steve Davis was superb in this role for a long time, but for most of it he was not getting the credit he deserved, all the praise was for Morgan Schneiderlin, Victor Wanyama and even Oriol Romeo and it was only in his later time at the club that he got the universal praise from the fans he deserved.
This seems to be the fate of Will Smallbone at the moment, there is more talk about why Shea Charles is not in the team than why Smallbone, but it is no coincidence that he has been an ever present in the starting line up in our now 7 game unbeaten run, likewise in the outfield line up only Kyle Walker Peters, Jan Bednarek, Flynn Downes and Adam Armstrong can make that claim, again we have a strong spine to the team and this is why we have picked up points.
Russell Martin hit the nail on the head on why we win so many games late on when he said after the game:
"It was a brilliant away performance. Of course it's hard work, you're coming to Millwall away so it's never going to be easy.
"In the second half we were outstanding, so dominant, played through them, really brave, really aggressive, had so much intensity and with some big performances.
"From 60 minutes on they looked tired because of the work we put into their legs, we looked stronger and stronger and then the subs came on and had an impact again."
So yet again we ground out another three points, as I say it's firstly about securing the play offs and then hauling back the top two, from the first perspective we need to keep averaging 1.63 points per game, the last 3 games have seen us rack up 7 points, so that is 2.33 per game, the last 6 games has seen 14 points so that still around 2.33, even if we bring in the two defeats to Middlesbrough & Ipswich and make it a 10 game ratio, that is 17 points and 1.7 per game, above what we need for the play offs.
We have quietly turned into one of the top sides in the division and we are only getting stronger and better.
In the preview I spoke of how this game could see us set the crowd record at the Stadium for a league game, that was set earlier in the season when 18,905 watched Millwall take on Bristol City, guess what the gate on Saturday was......... 18,905.
Sadly the win did not jump us above Leeds who beat Leicester on Friday night, but it did see us get a little nearer the top two, Leicester are still 12 points ahead of us, that is a big ask to catch them, but Ipswich although they rescued a point with two late goals are now only 8 ahead of us and although it will take time to haul that in, they will be looking over their shoulders.
So this has been a good weekend for Saints, we have kept our unbeaten run going and are pulling back those above us, we kept a 2nd clean sheet of the season and in doing so we are no longer in a negative goals against ratio.
Next up it is West Bromwich Albion who are one place and one point behind us, they are a form team and we have to make sure that their run ends and our continues.
Photo: Action Images
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Knees-up Mother Brown #14 by wessex_exile
The blog returns with KMB14, after another awayday last weekend and first visit for me to Edgeley Park to see the U’s pit their wits against the heir apparent champions Stockport County. Despite a stewarding fubar that I’ve probably mentioned more than enough already, it was a good day out overall, with the U’s more than a match for Stockport for most of the game, apart that is from a 90 second lapse in concentration either side of half-time. Certainly no disgrace though, and with the U’s getting straight back on the bike midweek with a comfortable 1-0 victory over League 1 Posh (albeit against largely their second string), I think we can look forward to this afternoon against promotion contenders Barrow with a degree of confidence.
Knees-up Mother Brown #13 by wessex_exile
KMB13, and this weekend I’m sure we will all, in our own way, pause to remember the fallen. With war again raging in Europe, and the Middle East aflame, I’m sadly reminded of the lyrics of Eric Bogle.
Knees-up Mother Brown #12 by wessex_exile
It’s a wet, windy first weekend of November, which can mean only one thing – it’s the magic of the FA Cup again! Today we face a trip to the New Meadow, home of League 1 Shrewsbury Town. I’ve never been to the New Meadow, my last trip to Salop was to watch the U’s win 2-1 in our FA Cup second round match at Gay Meadow back in December 2005 – and what a day that was too. That match was featured in Matches of Yesteryear #20, and it was pleasing to see it was the focus of a club interview with Greg Halford last week. There is also something very noteworthy about today – unless my calculations are awry, this will be our 200th appearance in the world’s greatest cup competition.
Knees-up Mother Brown #11 by wessex_exile
Well, following the U’s has been a bit of a rollercoaster through the last week. Ben Garner’s U’s slumped to a very poor home defeat last Saturday against Harrogate Town, despite taking the lead with a sublime strike from Chay Cooper. Robbie had seen enough, and that evening Ben was let go, with U21 lead coach Matty Etherington announced as the interim Head Coach on Monday. On Tuesday night, Matty Etherington’s U’s put in one hell of a shift, to come away from Grimsby (Cleethorpes – ed.) with all three points and a masterclass from Arthur Read – happy days, could Matty be our man? Well, not right now that’s for sure, after a call to Robbie from Crawley Town yesterday letting him know that apparently Matty is tied up in a contract exit clause from his brief spell at Crawley, seemingly forbidding him from operating in a head coach/ manager role until May 2024 (when his Crawley contract would have expired). So, Matty Etherington is stood down, with Assistant Head Coach Scott Marshall stepping up as our new interim Head Coach for the tough trip to Accrington Stanley.
Knees-up Mother Brown #10 by wessex_exile
Back again, after another U’s-induced matchday ‘experience’ at FGR, and what an experience it was. What was already a poor match between two poor sides descended into insanity after the red card for Mingi, with the U’s dismantled repeatedly to let four second half goals in. I hardly ever leave a game before the final whistle, but as the board went up for nine more minutes I’d seen enough and me and Alfie headed out for our lift home (and as a result, missed the frank exchange of views between players and supporters at the end). However, let’s focus on the positives, whatever was said, a much changed U’s were a different team on Tuesday at League 1 Cambridge. The U’s thoroughly deserved the win and their Pizza Slice Trophy three points, thanks in no small part to an excellent performance from Chay Cooper.
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