Southampton V Huddersfield Town The Verdict
Sunday, 11th Feb 2024 07:45
Saints fans watching the Ipswich V West Brom game pre match got a big boost as the Tractor Boys drew 2-2 with West Brom, but then the afternoon for a long while all appeared to going pear shaped, but it turned out to be one of the most exciting games ever at St Mary's.
No one could complain that they didn't get value for money at St Mary's on Saturday afternoon, Russell Martin opted to stick with an unchanged side from the win at Rotherham last weekend, but that appeared to be a mistake as his team looked a little complacent and probably needed the injection of a change or two to gee them up.
The warning signs were there in the opening half hour as Huddersfield played without fear and took the game to the home side and they got a just reward on 36 minutes when Thomas fired home.
But if Saints fans thought that was bad enough just as half time loomed Kasumu slotted home off the bar to shock the home support and Saints went in at the break two goals down after a shocking first half performance.
There was a second change for Saints at the break, David Brooks came on at half time for Che Adams, whilst Joe Rothwell was already off the pitch after replacing the injured Flynn Downes on 33 minutes.
But it would be Rothwell who would turn the game around 4 minutes after the restart, lashing in a long range shot from distance to reduce the deficit, then just 60 seconds later he completed the turnaround when he ran on to a great pass from his fellow loanee Brooks to fire home the equaliser.
Now you thought it would be all Saints and for a while it was, but again warning signs were there and on 65 minutes it was the visitors who scored the fifth goal of the game, the initial shot was probably going no where, but it took a wicked looping deflection which appeared to be going over but dropped suddenly and landed in the net.
So it was game on again, and the changes were rung, off went Fraser and Stuart Armstrong and on came Sam Edozie and Sulemana, it gave Saints impetus, but Huddersfield were playing without fear and this probably ultimately cost them.
On 79 minutes came another change, one that initially at least didn't please many Southampton supporters, off wen Adam Armstrong and on came Sekou Mara, within a minute Saints were level, Joe Rothwell's low cross being turned into his own net by Lees to send St Mary's wild and upping the atmosphere a notch.
Four minutes later came what turned out to be the winner, David Brooks pulled the ball back and Sekou Mara fired home to give Saints the lead for the first time in the game.
Huddersfield were still game though, a triple change on 87 minutes showed they weren't dead and buried just yet, but before they had a real chance to make an impression, Sam Edozie did, after a goal mouth scramble he showed a cool head under pressure and took the ball sideways and fired home to make it 5-3.
Suddenly though only 5 minutes after wanting a lot of injury time due to Huddersfield's shameless timewasting, Saints fans wanted none at all, so when 13 minutes of injury time came up on the board it was a surprise and a worry as in such an up and down game no one could predict what would happen next.
What did happen was that the home side concentrated on holding the two goal lead and making sure there were no more twists in the game.
The Saints fans present knew they had perhaps witnessed one of the great games in the near 23 years we have been at St Mary's, certainly a year ago we were complaining about entertainment and a lack of goals, no one could say that about this game.
Whilst questions can be asked about our lethargy and complacency in this game and that perhaps as i suggested in the preview that this was a good time to rest a few players, the way that those that came on and those that stayed on, knuckled down, never gave up the fight and eventually put Huddersfield to the sword was testimony to the depth and quality of this squad.
Joe Rothwell was the unexpected hero and man of the match, a superb first goal, a well worked and finished second goal and of course a cross that could only be turned into his own net.
But he was not alone David Brooks provided two assists and then there was Sekou Mara, much maligned by some, I have always stuck up for him for his hard work in the closing stages of games, making sure that there were nor late surprises, this time there was a late surprise as he fired home to win the game for Saints.
Russell Martin now has a dilemma, he has the likes of Brooks & Edozie, not to forget Sulemana at his disposal, Joe Rothwell has staked his claim for a place and suddenly we have real competition for places and the most exciting thing, goals from all areas of the team.
The end of the day sees Leeds still digging in and hanging on to our tails by a point, although we have a game in hand, but Ipswich on the same 30 games played are now 4 points adrift.
We took another big step in this game as we secured not only another victory but extended the unbeaten run to 25 games.
But the real step we too was that we showed that behind the controlled possession football we usually play is a never say die attitude, that proves we can roll up our sleeves and graft and win ugly sometimes.
We march on as they say and we now have to hit the road and keep it going.
Photo: Action Images
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|SaintPaulVW added 07:58 - Feb 11
Just a really enjoyable game of football to watch. Huddersfield went for it in the first half. Got in our faces left their feet in. Scored 2 similar goals.
Second half we really went for it.Huddersfield still wouldn't give up though. They only really seemed to go off the boil in extra time. 13 minutes was crazy, way too long.
Didn't really have an opinion on Rothwell up until now but those were 2 sweet strikes.
Thought Sulemana had his best game for us so far. Skillful and good end product.
Mara looks like a far more natural finisher than Adams or Armstrong. I really think he needs a run in the starting 11.
Great days entertainment.
|Jellybaby added 08:04 - Feb 11
Amazing game and it feels pivotal to the whole season and our promotion hopes. We need to be relentless and we were second half.
The underwhelming signing of Rothwell looks inspired now and Brooks was class as we knew, so good business there.
Use of subs was also excellent.
Should Gav have done better on goals 1 and 3? I think so.
Games like this is why we watch football - terrific stuff, well done Saints.
|davidargyll added 08:11 - Feb 11
Talk about an eight goal thriller!
Am I the only one with no faith who thought we’d have real problems coming back from 2 down? I gave myself a good talking to afterwards to convince myself of what RM said earlier in the season that this team never gives up: how right he was!
High points: every goal especially the howitzer from JR, accompanied by our general enthusiasm, tactical awareness and never-say-die attitude in H2. And the atmosphere! Wow! Amazing, especially in the second half. Certainly the best 45 minutes of the season so far.
Low points: the whole of H1. We were pressed hard and struggled to cope, resorting to long balls over the top especially to RF which invariably went stray. Our passing though generally was pretty poor and we seemed to stand off too much which led to both their goals. And finally SA, who I thought had a poor game and was taken off early, and just hope it isn’t his old injury coming back.
Summary: Huddersfield pressed us in H1, which is the way to play us, so we just have to realise that this is only the beginning of our fight, and yes it really is a fight, to retain second spot. We dealt with it very well in H2, but others will have seen it and I am sure that we will face more of it as the season draws on.
|WestSussexSaint added 08:43 - Feb 11
Given the unbeaten run we have been on, especially with the home results, there was almost an air of complacency in the crowd and possibly in the players as well at the start of the match. Huddersfield made it clear they weren’t here to lay down and Saints were a yard off the pace everywhere on the pitch.
It was not so long ago under previous managers that we would have a stronger first half and the half time instruction was hang on in the second. Not with Russell Martin. Whatever he said at half time lit a fuse and boy did the players respond. Every sub had an impact so without taking anything away from Joe Rothwell, my call for Motm is Russell Martin.
I’m sure RM will look closely at the first half performance and even defensively in the second we were exposed. Opponents will have seen the Huddersfield tactics and see how we can be got at so RM will need to cover that off as there will be more difficult challenges to come.
For now though let’s enjoy what was the best entertainment at SMS for as long as I can remember.
|SalisburySaint added 09:05 - Feb 11
I wonder at end of the season whether this result and performance be the one that makes the difference in getting automatic promotion
Brings back memories of MK Dons game in 2011, when 2-0 down Forte came on and scored two goals in rapid time and we ended up winning 3-2
Great character from the team and most of the supporters today
|A1079 added 09:32 - Feb 11
I would question any football supporter no matter who you support that would not get enjoyment out of a game like yesterday - perhaps say those that would be on the losing side. It was pure unadulterated enjoyment in every form. To be honest at half time you would have been hard pushed to find someone who did not think that this was going to be the end of our unbeaten run and we were as poor as we could have been in that first half. To come back and put in the performance we did in the 2nd half is a huge testament to the team attitude, to the subs that came on, to the manager who did whatever he had to do to try reverse the 1st half performance.
But, all the joy is tempererd and cannot be ignored by what had gone on before that 2nd half. Complacency, lack of effort, poor in most departments and a collapse of form. Both Huddersfield first 2 goals were almost a carbon copy of each other. The same side of the pitch, scored roughly from the same position in the box. Echoes of the past suddenly returned. To be honest there were slight signs of this complacency at Rotherham. Confidence can be good, arrogance can be defeating and had arrogancy visited our team?
In the 2nd half, sublime, effort, tenacity, attitude, and clinical (though still worryingly open at times). A special half but we cannot still look at that with some aire of warning. Huddersfield were generous with their attacking style which played into our hands a bit. Other teams that take a lead over us will be less generous and inclined to close shop so we have to avoid giving other teams the advantage in the first place. I fear Bristol City, West Brom and others will look at that and see how to get to us and will say and learn how to make sure that they are not as open and generous if they do take the lead.
So a brilliant game, one that will last long in the memory for all the right reasons but we have to take heed of the warnings that the game gave us.
|SaintStu7 added 10:02 - Feb 11
Wow, what a great game. Certainly wouldn’t have had that in the Premier League. Although disappointing to concede 3 you can’t take anything away from the team with 5 in reply. To those worried about Huddersfield’s tactics exposing our weaknesses it must be noted that it was these tactics that also allowed us to score 5 past them. If other teams employ the same approach they may not get a 2 goal head start and could get a battering!
|davidargyll added 10:25 - Feb 11
PS. Whilst I agree in theory with what SaintStu7 says about it being “disappointing to concede 3 you can’t take anything away from the team with 5 in reply”, I seem to recall a certain Mr K Keegan coming unstuck after saying something similar when he managed Newcastle…
|Farlow added 11:14 - Feb 11
Great game to watch RM got all the subs spot on.The goalkeeper was shocking.
A ll the stick Macarthy gets in thes columns and Bazunu gets none,amazing.
|DellBoyWally added 12:06 - Feb 11
It seems to becoming a habit having poor first halves. Just go back 3 days to the Watford cup game. If we play like that against good sides, our nearest competitors for example who we have to play away, we are going to get beat. WBA Friday will be a difficult game; they have a decent home record.
Being televised it's just the sort of game where we get comfortly beat leaving the country wondering what the fuss about Saints was all about.
Others have commented about our slow starts. It was put down to squad players coming in for cup games but has spread to the league.
Where has the smash-and-grab attitude where we always seemed to score early, gone.
RM has to get the balance right. He has sorted out other problems. I hope he fixes this soon or good bye automatic promotion.
|halftimeorange added 12:40 - Feb 11
I was disappointed by the defensive shambles we were before halftime. Every one of the back five looked shaky. Manning gave the ball away so many times it seemed he had reverted to type and KWP was caught out of position over and over. I was even more dismayed by the distinct booing from some of our "supporters" after forty--seven minutes. That is nothing short of idiocy when the team has gone on such a long undefeated run. The substitutions were effective. Edozie looks more and more the real deal, Mara used his strength and scored again and was more effective than Adams and Sullemana isn't the finished article but is a useful addition to the tea. I've thought Adam Armstrong isn't quite at it these past few games. He's missing more than he's scoring. I see a difficult few weeks coming up unless RM can work some more intensity to go with the never give up attitude he's installed in the players. The potential loss of Flynn Downes is a big blow. Perhaps we'll get a referee who knows when he's being conned and recognises genuine needs to halt the game. Yesterday was a masterclass in bewildering decisions.
|landsdownsaint added 13:05 - Feb 11
Such exciting talent out there , Edozie is such a problem for the opposition, I feel like we’re changing again & maybe going up a gear with Rothwell , Brooks & it finally looks like Seko Mara is getting closer to fulfilling the obvious talent he’s got , he’s very strong & great awareness … 3 new players there maybe better than what we’ve been using
|highfield49 added 13:15 - Feb 11
Huddersfield did us a huge favour by exposing some weaknesses, complacency and arrogance that had been creeping in during recent games. I'd like to think that the game was a wake up call to every player prepared to rest on their laurels.
As for the game, I'm struggling to think of a technically better strike than JR's first goal, absolute perfection.
Whilst Farlow is entitled to his opinion about Bazunu's ability in goal I think it fairer to suggest that the third Huddersfield goal was a fluke, and as much worthy of criticism of the keeper as the opposition's own goal for our third. Equally, I can't envisage McCarthy saving either of the first two Huddersfield goals and the fact that McCarthy is utterly hopeless controlling and passing the ball with his feet makes criticism of Bazunu even more superfluous.
Indeed, a poor first half but the fact that every substitute improved our performance, took control of the match and subsequently won the game is testament to the quality and depth of squad RM has constructed.
Edozie, Sulemana and Mara haven't become better players by accident and huge credit goes to a manager who is totally grounded and focused on taking the team to the next level. Whilst there are tough games ahead, not only this week but in the following months, I feel that we are in a stronger mindset than Leeds and Ipswich, neither of whom have our overall quality in depth.
|131153 added 13:15 - Feb 11
Unfortunately had to miss the game yesterday as unwell watches the highlights several times this morning. I thought Bazunu could have done better with the first goal but had no chance with their third. Difficult to make a judgement on the not being there but very pleased with the result and with Ipswich dropping 2 points a good all round afternoon. I especially liked the way Mara held off 3 defenders put his on the ball and then rolled it back to Edozie for the fifth.
|Farlow added 14:57 - Feb 11
The first goal was definitely one the Keeper should have saved.I always watch Saints in an unbiased view but whilst the third was flukey Bazunu still had plenty of time to save it.
Very pleased to watch Mara,s progress.
|131153 added 16:03 - Feb 11
He might have had plenty of time to save it had he been positioned incorrectly in relation to the play was developing as he was positioned correctly didn’t t have a cat in hells chance.
|ItchenNorth added 16:24 - Feb 11
That was a great game. The feeling that we would lose our unbeaten run, to then two quick goals after halftime to send everyone into raptures in the stands, to going behind for a third time but to run out with a 5-goal second-half performance, was great. This is why the Championship is such a great league. Hats off to Huddersfield as well, they played great throughout but in the end, our strength and depth won out.
However, who are these idiotic people who booed at halftime? They need calling out. If anyone on here booed, please tell me why that was justified! Even if we did lose the game and the record, we'd have seen 24 games unbeaten and that alone is worthy of an ovation in itself for the effort of all players and coaching staff. Over the years, we've heard for example Man United sing that 'undefeated' song endlessly season in and season out and no doubt we've all listened to it at St Marys thinking how entitled they all sound, gloating to everyone about their record. We are now singing that song (which is great for us), yet those who booed before halftime need to give their head a wobble. The entitlement to a performance and a win when things haven't gone to plan for 45 minutes was just embarrassing.
|underweststand added 10:31 - Feb 12
I somehow felt that we started a bit low-key, expecting this to be a easy win only for Huddersfield to take advantage from the start. I thought we were "a bit lazy " in midfield and the situation got worse after Downes went off. Will Smallbone fought on alone, while Stu. Armstrong - though is good in an attacking role - does not defend well.
In the event, Rothwell was an inspired substitution and it was certainly a game of two halves, and I was left wonderíng when the last time a Saints side scored 5 goals in the second half ?. I recall we put 8 past Sunderland during the Koeman regime but can't remember the timing of the goals.
Some of our best games this season have been against highly-placed sides, but once again we struggled against a relegation-threatened club and might easily have lost it, but for the second half revival, but the game will stay long in the memory for the late victory.
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Knees-up Mother Brown #19 by wessex_exile
February, and the U’s enter the most pivotal month of the season. Six games in just four weeks, with four of them against sides also in the bottom six. By March we should be either well clear of danger, or even deeper in the sh*t. With Danny Cowley’s U’s still unbeaten, and looking stronger game on game, I’m sure it’ll be the former, but first we have to do our bit to consign Steve ‘Sour Grapes’ Cotterill’s FGR back to non-league. After our shambolic 5-0 defeat at New Lawn, nothing would give me greater pleasure, even if it meant losing one of my closest awaydays in the process. What’s the excuse going to be today Steve – shocking pitch, faking head injuries, Mexican banditry or some other bit of sour-grapery bullsh*t?