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Southampton V Preston North End The Preview
Tuesday, 16th Apr 2024 07:45

The second home preview of the season for the visit of Proud Preston and hopefully they will actually get to play a game this time, however Saints will need to be a lot more switched on than they have been in their last two home games.

Two straight home wins aligned with the sides above us slipping up have opened up a chance of automatic promotion again, but the truth is that we haven't played well for parts of both those wins and we need to be at our best for the whole 90 minutes not just for an hour of a game.

On a plus point despite our lack of game management and direction, we were good enough to dig in and make sure we were in a position to win both the games and that has to be a good thing, they say the sign of a good side is the ability to win games when you are playing badly and to be honest, the last time we put in a truly composed and 90 minute performance was two months ago in the win at West Bromwich Albion.

Since then every performance has been patchy at best, there have been 9 League games since that win, 4 of them won and 2 of them drawn and the other 3 lost, but we have yet to get anywhere near the heights we reached in that game at the Hawthorns of indeed all but one of the 23 League games that preceded it.

So we really need to pull a good organised, confident performance out of the bag for this one.

Russell Martin has hinted in his pre match comments that some of his squad looked tired on Saturday and that the emotion of the last minute win against Watford might have taken some of the energy out of certain players, but we all know at one player who that won't be the case for.

Preston still harbour feint hopes of a play off spot, but they know that even a draw would see that hope virtually extinguished, so they might well come out and attack us and give us the opportunity to put them to the sword.

So what changes might Russell Martin make, well firstly I would hope that he would bring Jan Bednarek back into the centre of defence, but my fear is that if he does we will again see Taylor Harwood-Bellis moved to right back, or indeed even worse dropped.

I can also see a start for Ryan Manning, given that we need to get out there and get forward.

So for me assuming there are no changes in goal, I would like to see the back four that got us through the bulk of that unbeaten run back in place, KWP, THB, Bednarek & Manning.

I just have the sinking feeling that if he does that then the centre of midfield will have Jack Stephens in it, no offence to Jack, but he is not a midfield player, if he is in the side he should be there on merit and nothing else, we have at least 5 midfielders who should be in that position ahead of him, end of.

I think Will Smallbone, Flynn Downes and Joe Aribo are the men in form, none deserve to be dropped to shoehorn in our captain or indeed for any of the other contenders in the middle, that includes Stuart Armstrong who was not at his best against Watford.

Up front I truly expect David Brooks to drop to the bench. he has not been up to speed in the last two games and needs a rest, perhaps due to his recent illness, Ryan Fraser should start in his place, or maybe Russell Will think out of the box and play Jack in a hybrid central defender/left wing role, I am only half joking here.

On a serious note although we still have to play 3 games in the next 7 days, after 3 games in the 7 days ending with the Watford game, the season is nearing it's end, we have to take every game as it comes and that means getting each one won before we tinker or rest players.

Every game is now a pivotal moment, win this one and we will find ourselves just 3 points behind Leeds in 3rd place with a game in hand, that is the first objective within our grasp, finishing in 3rd place.

Leicester will just 4 points ahead of us on the same points and Ipswich just 5 but we will have a game in hand.

There is everything to play for against Preston, the season is not going to be finished for at least 7 games yet including at least two play off games, now is the time to fill St Mary's and get behind the team, the time has come to show the Spirit Of Southampton & make some noise !

Photo: Action Images

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SanMarco added 10:36 - Apr 16
I certainly agree with all of this. In a, I am sure, vain attempt to take the sting out of the JS 'debate' I would say two things. Firstly, it is NOT JS's fault, if he doesn't merit a place in the starting line-up then that is solely down to RM. Secondly, I would say we only have two or three, at most, 'automatic' selections, players who should always be somewhere in the team if fit. No one can argue that JS is such a player, So 'shoe-horning' him in is, to say the least, peculiar. RM is a 'look at me' manager (you only had to cringe at the pointless, ponderous and performative tippy-tappy at Anfield to know that) and he clearly thinks that he can add value by tinkering. I think he is wrong. As Nick says - only 7 to go so play your best team in each one and recognise that as the nerves set in the tippy-tappy at the back becomes even more dangerous and pointless.

For what it is worth I think we will win the next two and then Leicester will be the defining moment of the season.

Bowlercow added 11:00 - Apr 16
We simply must win our third game in EIGHT days It's as simple as that

RM's need to keep JS in the team is the only selection issue I have had with him Other than that he appears to have selected his best available team

allsaint54 added 11:34 - Apr 16
I'm surprised RM hasn't played Jack as a striker

Farlow added 12:00 - Apr 16
Stuey must start.Sulemana ahead of Brooks any day and Bree at the back to help
keep it tight.

SaintPaulVW added 12:40 - Apr 16
In defence of Brooks, while he seemed to fade out of the game, he did get an assist against Watford.

I thought Manning played well on Saturday. Agree that Bednarek should start. Stephens is an odd one, while he makes a lot of mistakes - own goal on Saturday really - he seems to be favoured by a lot of our managers so he must add something to the team that we just can't see from the stands. Dunno.

Agree we almost certainly need to win all 6 games to be in with a shout of getting in the top 2. So tonight is a must win.


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