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Swansea City 1 v 3 Southampton
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 20th January 2024 Kick-off 12:30
Southampton At Swansea City The Verdict
Sunday, 21st Jan 2024 21:14

Last week Saints equalled the 102 year old club unbeaten record, this week they went one better, but its wasn't a game of two halves, but more one of two thirds, the first two stunning and the third as bad as we have been all season.

At the end Saints fans celebrated with Russell Martin and his team, but there was a gut feeling that we had nearly thrown it all away, after a superb first hour where we played as well as at any time in the season, suddenly we lost all shape and organisation.

The game started well with Che Adams putting us ahead after only 6 minutes and it was no surprise when Will Smallbone added a second on 20 minutes, a well taken goal and hopefully it will make some appreciate him more, he does not have the swagger of Flynn Downes, the passing ability of others, but he does the fetching and carrying, the stuff that doesn't get the glory and everyone needs someone in the team like that.

Saints were in cruise control and Swansea and their supporters looked worried that it might be another drubbing as it was at St Mary's a few weeks ago, but just before the break the home side pulled one back.

In truth it was both offside and as TV replays revealed also hand ball, but it could also be argued that Stuart Armstrong was offside for our second goal, so it in truth evened things up.

But what wasn't evened up was the scoreline and the two goal cushion was restored on 45 minutes when Flynn Downes first home from outside the area.

It was 3-1 at half time but it could easily have been 5-1 !

This was perhaps the best 45 minutes of the season and we were gelling as a team, we were building from the back with both Kyle Walker Peters & Ryan manning getting up and down the line and supporting the forwards.

The second half saw Swansea try to up the ante but Saints handled it well and started to play the possession game and stroke the ball around to the delight of the travelling supporters who ole'd and sung songs about being undefeated and Pompey.

But then came a change in the game on the hour mark, our defence had been impeccable and were the foundation of everything that was being built going forward, but then came a strange change on 60 minutes, off went Taylor Harwood-Bellis and on came Jack Stephens.

It could be said that with Harwood-Bellis on a yellow card this was bout taking precautions, but in my mind it was far too early in the game to be making the change, we were in control and not being stretched.

For some reason Russell Martin seems to have a desire to give Jack as much time on the pitch as he can, when we consider that the manager barely changed the central defensive pairing during Stephens 4 month injury absence, even though both Mason Holgate and Shea Charles had put in some sterling performances, now we seem to break up the pairing of Bednarek & Harwood-Bellis every week and chop and change at the back.

Whatever the reason it broke up the rhythm of the side and the Swansea and their fans had begun to notice and sensed there was something to be had from the game.

A difficult time to bring in loan signing Joe Rothwell on for his debut, but he showed that he knows what is needed in this division and hopefully he will be an asset.

In truth they created little, they just pressed, but we gave them the ball too easily and they really should have scored on at least two occasions because of it.

Gavin Bazunu though came to our rescue and made sure that we didn't throw away a two goal lead.

One downside was, that at the very moment the team needed the fans behind them all they got was virtual silence, the ole'ing had stopped, the songs about being undefeated were stopped dead and it was if there was an air of inevitability about what would happen next.

In truth this was perhaps our worst 30 minute spell of the entire 20 unbeaten spell in the League and we saved it for the last half hour before the record was surpassed.

The team though dug in and got us through the 90 minutes plus injury time and at the final whistle the celebrations began.

It was a fine sight to see Ryan Fraser hoisted on the shoulders of Che Adams, the Wee Man has been a big part of our last four months and it was right he got some applause, Russell martin seemed more subdued than usual, when he took his now customary acclaim, he pointed at the squad as if to say it is all about them and not me, a show of humility that bodes well.

This feat shouldn't be underestimated and the entire squad and coaching staff came to take the applause of the fans and rightly so, the feature of this run has been the unity in the squad and indeed staff, the common goal and all for one, one for all attitude that Russell Martin has instilled.

Perhaps the last few weeks have been about the record, but now that is has been broken the heat is off and we can concentrate on promotion, perhaps that will add a few more games to the record, but now we have pulled back Ipswich, we have to focus on the main goal.

What we have to make sure is that we don't take our foot off the gas now the record is broken, we have to keep being relentless and we didn't do that in the final half hour and that was a worry.

The manager has learnt some harsh lessons as the season has progressed and perhaps he learned another on Saturday, this season might well depend on goal difference, to make sure our is the best we have to put sides to the sword, at Swansea we didn't do that, we took our foot off the gas, there was no need for that either, with an FA Cup game next week and no League game for a fortnight our first choice players will get a rest at Watford and the back ups the chance to show what they can do at Vicarage Road.

We have come along way in the past 4 months or so and we can go further.

Personally I count this as 20 games unbeaten not 21, I don't count cup games, we could easily lose at Watford next week, but we could go on longer undefeated in the League.

So for me it is 20 games undefeated and we go again at Rotherham, the cup is a separate issue.

So congratulations to Russell Martin who has truly written his name into the Southampton history books, I have said this before, in the last 102 years many great managers of Southampton FC have got nowhere near this record and that deserved not only praise, but also respect from those who said that he was never going to be the man for this club.

Photo: Action Images



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codge added 22:27 - Jan 21
No doubt a great record but the other managers were playing teams in a different time and leagues so you can’t really compare it’s apples and oranges but it is still a great run and long may it continue COYR
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landerwal added 23:36 - Jan 21
A good result, but in the last thirty minutes we lost the plot and watching the clock slowly tick down was like watching too many games of the past few seasons, nail biting.Still, RM must realise by now that bar injury, good CBs stay together till the whistle blows for the the ninety minutes and are never subbed, except for injury.



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landsdownsaint added 03:30 - Jan 22
I think it’s all about respect for RM & he’s giving Jack Stephens tons of that as a loyal Saint , I’m sure he’s not really in RM’s future plans but he’s giving him a chance … I was thinking how good Tadic & obviously Romeu would’ve been under RM
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davidargyll added 08:23 - Jan 22
I have said elsewhere that I have a tad of sympathy for Jack Stephens because he was left on the sidelines for three months recovering from his injury as the rest of the squad got better and more confident. And he is now paying the price. But he surely knows he must improve. And RM knows he must improve too. But he won’t/can’t without game time. So I reckon he will play in the Watford game and that will be the crucial test for him. Play well then. Or it’s bench-sitting for the rest of the season and night night thereafter.

As for Saturday, us playing well for the first three quarters of the game and badly tailing off towards the end seems to be becoming a bit of an unfortunate habit. I guess the downside of having 70% or so possession is you get knackered, so bring on subs and risk upsetting the balance. However on Saturday we did have dollops of good luck which saw us through, coupled with some fine defensive work from many (bar JS) especially GB. A big Phew in other words.

But maybe there’s more to it than that. RM is reported to have said that the squad is training really hard and really well, so could the team be proving the old adage about the harder you practice the luckier you get? If so, long may it continue…
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JoeEgg added 09:23 - Jan 22
An excellent summary from Nick. The first hour was indeed mightily impressive. But then as one commentator exclaimed during the final 25 minutes - "Whats going on"? !!!

The balance was suddenly all wrong and a poor Swansea team made us look like we were a struggling team ourselves lucky to get away with 3 points - I shudder to think what a rampant Leicester team would have achieved during those closing minutes!

Harwood-Bellis is a superb asset but this season he needs better back up and presumably will need to be replaced altogether next season. At the moment that is very worrying for Saints. So right now it would appear that we need to find at least two specialist defenders almost as a priority over securing a possible replacement for Che!!

So while we are doing so well is the best time to strengthen the squad further. The current transfer names being aired dont seem to me to include the out and out defenders we could do with, or the goal poacher who could have helped us to a potentially five goal lead at half time. Its not a question of never being grateful or satisfied - its a matter of putting the finishing touches to the excellent job Russell Martin and his team have already done!!
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IanRC added 09:51 - Jan 22
Transfer activity has been disappointing thus far but then it is difficult as looks like Che and Kyle will hopefully stay and squad looks strong with still Sulemana and Edozie to come back soon. Regarding the superb Harwood Bellis, my understanding was that if we are promoted then we are obliged to buy him and City are obliged to sell him for circa £20m, which looks a bargain.
6

SaintPaulVW added 11:18 - Jan 22
I wonder if the team wobbled slightly because of 'the record' playing on their minds. In recent games we have started slow and then picked up. Whether Swansea also were aware of this trend and aimed to up the tempo in the second half , they completely changed their front 3, to counteract. Don't know.

Bazunu played out of his skin. Manning was also good, bad news for this detractors lol. Agree subs completely upset the side. Stephens may need minutes but if he plays mis hit passes like that one across the face of goal again, Holgate or Charles should be given time instead.

I would be quite happy if we sign Fraser this window. Think Che is just going to wind his contract down. No problem if he stays fit.

COYR


6

highfield49 added 13:11 - Jan 22
I think the scrappy performance in the last third of the game was a wake up call, to everyone, that complacency can't be allowed to creep into team selection and substitutions.
Credit to Swansea for their substitutions and the pressure applied by a more energetic group of front runners. The fact that our substitutes weren't able to regain control of the game defensively is something that RM needs to address on game analysis and the training ground. Jack Stephens was pivotal to the decline in game control because he was tasked with doing a job that he isn't capable of doing. Not your fault Jack but you don't read the game well, your passing isn't good under pressure and you aren't a better player than Mason Holgate.
It made sense to get substitute THB following the yellow card but, as others have posted, loyalty to the enthusiastic but limited talent of Stephens will cost us points in the future. By all means give Jack some playing time but only when the opposition aren't capable of putting him under pressure.
All that said, the quality of football in the first half was at times quite stunning. Fraser and Adam A were outstanding, KWP frequently beat several players with ease and the rest of the team kept control of the ball and passed it with confidence and skill. Once again a joy to watch. I don't think the promotion push can now be halted unless RM repeats the mistake of disrupting the team for the wrong reasons, loyalty to players is understandable but winning games is more important-
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Bowlercow added 13:30 - Jan 22
The record is no longer a monkey on our back so we can go forward and not give it another thought until we eventually lose a match, and taking Nicks point, a league game. At that stage we will have set a new "never to be beaten" record
The last third of the game will, I hope, have give Swansea a confidence boost Enough to take points from Leeds, Ipswich and Liecester I believe they play all 3 before the end of February
I have been a fan of RM from the time he walked through the door I like the tippy tappy stuff that sometimes makes nervous and excited at the same time As a person he appears to be classy as shown in his treatment of Swansea fans and the way he backs his players come hell or high water
Hopefully he becomes our longest serving manager this century
2

halftimeorange added 17:26 - Jan 22
I imagine some of the premier league clubs are already taking a long look at RM and his work both here and the unfinished stuff he started at MK Dons and Swansea. They won't have been enamoured with what they saw after the substitutions on Saturday. Jack Stephens played like a raw recruit and Shea Charles is somewhat reckless. In fact, Jack (sadly) has never really cut it for Saints. His passing is often abysmal and his positional sense isn't that good either but, I concede that he is good moving with the ball out of defence. That, however, won't be good enough if we're promoted. No doubt our scouts are out and about and replacements for Jack and other weaker members of our squad have probably been earmarked by now, otherwise RM's good work will be to no avail.
3

sandywelsh added 09:32 - Jan 23
As I said elsewhere we played very well until Stephens came on then our defence had no organisation and panic set in.
I cant see what Russell sees in him and as for making him captain that's a joke. We have done really well when he was out injured please don't waste that by playing him now.
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