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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.

Card Count
Jan Bednarek - Yellow
Flynn Downes - Yellow

Photo: Action Images

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Centurion added 11:14 - Nov 5
Bill Shankly once said of the great Liverpool side that 'it is funny how the harder we train and the more we practice, the luckier we become'.

highfield49 added 11:29 - Nov 5
Thankfully there is still a long way to go this season and both Leicester and Ipswich are going to lose games. In fact Leicester were very fortunate not to get beaten more comprehensively by Leeds on Friday. Leeds may have the same problem as we have at present, turning opportunities into goals. A problem that we are all hoping Ross Stewart can alleviate and put more pressure on the promotion chasing teams.
So, yesterday, lots of shots on target and again not too many that would trouble a decent goalkeeper. And, despite it being a sharp finish, Fraser's near post effort to win the match looked like one of those that McCarthy frequently gifted to the opposition.
None of the above comments are meant as negatives after a hard won three points, the team absolutely worked their socks off and at times Alcaraz on the ball looked absolutely majestic. My point is that if RS can knock in some goals in the months to come the reward for the hard work can be even greater. Happy days.

cotswoldsaint added 11:57 - Nov 5
Great to see Beatts in with the fans celebrating the goal!


FrankSaint added 12:38 - Nov 5
All good stuff. I just want to mention something disappointing. For all the talk about Southampton being a great club for developing players, there was only one home grown player in the entire match day squad. And that was Smallbone. I thought it worth mentioning as this is is an aspect that still matters to some fans. This season it was also disappointing to sell Tella leave as soon as he started fulfilling his potential after years of patient support from the club and its fans. These stories help make a club to be something special rather than just another business. I know that this problem is part of a trend that has been going on since football became big business. And there will be other fans that probably don't see this as a priority. But, it deserves a mention. After all, it does render match results less meaningful for anyone with a connection to the city. I hope recent changes under the new owners can get that conveyor belt going again. Other wise, I think indifference will spread.

underweststand added 13:23 - Nov 5
To Frank Saint..... these things go in phases. Prowsey was almost the last of his generation to move on..(Stephens is still with the club) but the likes of Shaw, Targett, Reed and Chambers all came through the Academy of their day - and in most cases at that age they weren't good enough to be first choice. Bertrand had the LB spot nailed down for several years and - even if fit - I suspect Sam McQueen would have had a tough job replacing him. Likewise, it took time for Stephen Davis to move before Prowsey became permanent.

Nathan Tella might have made it with us, but I'm sure that Burnley wished they'd bought him when they had the chance instead of being so tight-a**ed about the fee. An extra couple of mill. may have kept him, but instead they may drop back down again in May.

The age ranges have dropped now and although we've seen the likes of Edozie and Ayo-Ameyaw getting a few starts, they are a long way from becoming permanent fixtures in the squad - let alone in a start side. Any young player who hasn't made his mark by the age of 20 may find himself moving onto a lower league and getting back up the hard way.

Right now we have a very young Championship squad and none of them looks like a prospect for the Prem. next season either, and no obvious candidates in the current U21's.

Bowlercow added 14:19 - Nov 5
To the 2 above posters
The feed dried up when Fat Les Reed sacked Williams and Dodd and replaced them with his FA mate Hunter He also released two CB's Mings who plays for Villa and White who is a regular FB for Arsenal

Back to what we have now
Baz is definitely benefitting from having a solid and regular pair of CB's in front of him And those CB's now appear to have more confidence in him Who will replace Bednarek against WBA because I believe he is suspended under the totting up rule It has to be Charles or Holgate My choice would be Charles

SanMarco added 15:43 - Nov 5
It's not lucky to win a game late, or draw one late for that matter. It is very risky though. You can't keep scoring very late goals. Entering injury time 2 or 3 up is a better guarantee of three points!

I am cautiously optimistic that we are gradually moving in the right direction but I would like to see us create more chances. That's the way to put these games to bed a wee bit earlier!

PS I can't believe there is YET ANOTHER international break after that...

PPS I am now raising a glass to Chesterfield!!!

SanMarco added 15:44 - Nov 5
Sorry - I meant yet another international break after WBA game...

IanRC added 17:11 - Nov 5
Great result with patience shown although not good for the spectators’ nerves. Thought we were totally dominant in the second half. Also thought the referee was very poor letting Milwall getting away with a lot, some of the challenges on Sulemana in particular bordered on red card territory. There was constant, largely unpunished shirt pulling by them though referee managed to book Bednarak, definitely a home crowd official.

SaintPaulVW added 07:18 - Nov 6
I'm getting a bit concerned ..I'm starting to think we look like quite a good team. I'm not used to this feeling.

Midfield looks solid but not flashy. Defence looks to be coming together. Agree with your point on Bree and KWP. Manning is more attack minded do that can leave us short at the back. I like his use at the end if games tho when the opposition is a bit tired out.


Farlow added 21:27 - Nov 6
It was a great display to keep a clean sheet at Millwall.Is it testament to the appointment
of Calderwood or just coincidence.Nick i do not know how you think Bazunu is improving
he is like a cat on a hot tin roof his positional nous is zero and he is like a cricketer who does
not know where his off stump is.As for dealing with crosses he is no good at all.

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