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Birmingham City 3 v 4 Southampton
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 2nd March 2024 Kick-off 15:00
Southampton V Preston North End The Preview
Wednesday, 6th Mar 2024 09:07

Saints had no favours given to them in last night's games, so tonight means that they have to do it the hard way and take all three points just to keep up with the 3 clubs above them in the Championship table.

Leeds United & Leicester City both scraped 1-0 wins and Ipswich Town came from behind twice and scored a last minute winner to mean that Southampton start tonight 8 points behind second place when they kick off against Preston at St Mary's this evening.

That means there is no leeway tonight, nothing less than 3 points will do, otherwise with just 10 games left making up 8 points will be a tough ask.

Preston arrive with promotion hopes of their own and are 4 points off the 6th place club, they know a win will keep them up there with a hope, but defeat will leave them swimming at the back of a big pool of promotion hopefuls.

As we found in the trip to Lancashire earlier in the season, Preston know how to score against us, letting us push on and catching us on the break, after that game we learned a lesson, but in recent games we have gone back to our old ways, as happened at Birmingham on Saturday, when we conceded two the first two goals from two quick counter attacks.

Preston arrive in reasonable form, unbeaten in their last 7 games, winning 4 and drawing 5 of them, however that came on the back of a terrible run that had seen them win just 3, draw 2 and lose 8 of their previous 13 Championship games.

They seem to have learned a few lessons and dragged themselves back into the promotion frame.

So Russell martin needs to get things right tonight at the back, some have blamed his obsession at playing Jack Stephens at the back, but as an individual Stephens has not done too badly when brought into the side, what has been the problem is changing the back four changes the solid foundations we had built.

In Harwood-Bellis & Bednarek we had arguably the strongest defensive partnership in the division, in Kyle Walker Peters the best right back and even though some would not agree, Ryan Manning had found his form.

But then we kept on upsetting the apple cart, Birmingham scored so early on Saturday because they had noted that we had a back four that would be finding it's feet in the early stages, that if they ran at us early they would find us all at sixes & sevens and that proved to be the case.

So this evening we have to build our foundations on that which served us so well, that means THB & Bednarek in the central positions, if KWP isn't fit then either James Bree or Jack Stephens at right back and Ryan Manning at left back.

A tight back four, marshalled by players in the centre who can hold the shape and know the positions they need to be in, this was not the case on Saturday when Taylor Harwood Bellis was essentially the right back & Jack Stephens was in the centre, as I said it was not about players having bad games, just the shape and lack of organisation.

So the first thing is to keep it tight and not give teams the chance to catch us early on, then build from the back, Will Smallbone & Flynn Downes alongside Stuart Armstrong and up front Adam Armstrong should be a nailed on starter and I would say that Che Adams & David Brookes should make up the front 3.

That line up is not far different from the one that started against Birmingham, in fact it could be exactly the same if KWP isn't fit, it is not about the personnel, it is about the shape of the back four and everyone knowing what they are doing from the first second of the game to the last.

As I mentioned anything but 3 points will be very damaging, Preston will come with a game plan and that will be hard to break down, away from home they are tight, conceding just 23 goals in 17 games on the road, winning 6 and drawing 4 of them.

But conversely they have scored just 20, the pattern of the game looks to be already set and it is not one that in recent weeks Saints have been able to deal with well.

This season still has a few twists & turns to go, we have to make sure that we make sure that this isn't the first of them and the three clubs above aren't breathing a sigh of relief come 10 pm this season.

Russell Martin has to show Southampton fans that he is the man to take us to promotion, that he can learn lessons and get the best out of what is probably the best squad in the division in terms of Quantity & Quality.

Photo: Action Images

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DellBoyWally added 10:47 - Mar 6
As myself and many others have been saying for the last few of weeks, the right people in their right place. We go from miserly to charitable as soon as RM messed around with the back 4 and then JS comes in! Revert to our 2 best CBs, Bree on right if KWP out, Manning on left.
The rest pretty much picks itself although one or two are pressing for starts. Make good, and proper, use of them as timely subs.
We need goals and we need wins. To get a top 2 finish we basically need to win every game. It's only 11 games! Maybe we've had our dip and we're heading on a run. Other teams have looked vulnerable. Let's take advantage.
My biggest worry is RM continues to tinker and the teams behind catch us. If we don't make the top 2 we want 3rd for the best draw - play 6th. At the moment we'd be 4th so play 5th.
So stop phaphing around Go for tight defence and plenty of goals. (plenty of goals?? HaHaHa)

JoeEgg added 11:43 - Mar 6
So no place for Joe Aribo - despite RM calling him 'brilliant'! Another who was 'brilliant' was RM's favourite Jack Stephens! And of course, Manning was' brilliant' going forward.
As a result of RM messing about so much I'm not sure that anyone knows exactly what the best and tightest line-up really is. Anyway, you can be sure that everyone will be 'brilliant' again tonight win, draw or lose!

TimSaint added 12:28 - Mar 6
Keep Bed and THB as CB pairing
Bree if no KWP
If Manning plays, put him wide left back - not central - and makensure he marks his man.

We have options in CM and up top, so I don't think scoring will be a problem.
Just keep it tight at the back, stop fannying around with it, cut out the kamikaze passing and hoof it if you have to !! Clean sheet please !!

Cheers, Brooks and Arm to score.

SaintPaulVW added 12:49 - Mar 6
Think Stephens will stay in. Just listen to the post game interviews, Martin loves him. He particularly seems to praise Jack's attitude.

Seems harsh to not have Aribo start. He's particularly good at holding the ball.

As you say tough game but we need to win to stay in the race. Got to be there to capitalise on any dropped points from the 3 teams above.


codge added 13:29 - Mar 6
Ryan Manning has found his form not so sure about that,he can’t even find his man to mark half the time.

Farlow added 13:39 - Mar 6
ASribo needs to start he,s good on the ball but he gives us a bit of muscle too.
Its time for Bazunu to step up its ok being good with your feet but there has to
be more than that.

Centurion added 13:58 - Mar 6
I would be more than happy just to get a play off place.

WestSussexSaint added 14:20 - Mar 6
Heads up for those attending the match tonight. There is a large factory fire in the industrial estate that backs into the family zone at the Chapel End of SMS. Britannia Road is closed to help the emergency service access.

No word on whether it will impact tonight’s game. Hopefully it will be all cleared before fans start their journeys.

DellBoyWally added 16:08 - Mar 6

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