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Southampton At Leeds United The Verdict
Sunday, 5th May 2024 09:28

Saints finished the season with a flourish, to give hope that they can go into the play offs with discipline & organisation as well as the confidence that they can beat anyone that they meet.

The mood at Elland Road was buoyant with Leeds supporters still having a little bit of hope that they could thrash Southampton and that fellow Yorkshire side Huddersfield could perform a miracle at Ipswich.

When the Saints team was announced an hour before kick off, it was clear that the strategy from Russell Martin was to play just about his first choice side and try to regain confidence ahead of the play offs and hope that no one would pick up any injuries, it was also uplifting to see the name of August signing Ross Stewart on the bench.

Sometimes you can tell how the game is going to go for Saints in the opening minutes, you can almost smell either the fear of confidence in the side and with this one you could see there was a different attitude running through the team.

But you could also feel that this was going to be a different type of game that Saints would need to play, this was going to be one of the few games where we would not dominate possession, we would need to be well drilled and organised to repel a pacy Leeds side who knew that they had to win by a big score to have any hope of promotion.

At the back Saints seemed to have 3 central defenders with Kyle Walker Peters and Ryan Manning operating as wing backs, but it was fluid and adapted when Leeds tried to give it the run around.

But Elland Road was stunned into silence when Adam Armstrong fired home from close range on 18 minutes to give Southampton the lead and the 2,000 Saints supporters were jubilant, with nothing to play for they were not on edge and gave their team superb backing.

But the lead would not last long, I have often complained about a lack of leadership on the pitch and this was evident just after we had scored, instead of keeping things tight after the goal, we went off after the restart as if we were a goal down with 2 minutes to play, Leeds got the ball and for just about the only period of the game we were in disarray, we couldn't clear the ball cleanly and Leeds got up a head of steam.

After having at least two good chances to clear the ball it eventually fell to Piroe who fired home.

So now was the acid test for Saints, the crowd were now sensing their team were getting going and could they put the visitors to the sword.

The answer was no, Saints regained their composure and 14 minutes later were back in front, the architect was Kyle Walker Peters who chased what looked a ball going out for a goal kick into the corner flag, won it and then went past the defender to pull the ball back for Will Smallbone who fired home.

This was a pivotal moment, it knocked the stuffing out of the Leeds team and the crowd, they were realising that time was running out and with the news filtering through to the Leeds fans by both the internet and Saints fans letting them know, that Ipswich were a goal up, they were realising that with only 55 minutes left they were going to need to score a lot of goal in the second half even if Huddersfield could perform a miracle at Portman Road.

Russell Martin made a change at half time, off went Manning and on came Ryan Fraser as the left wing back, the Wee Man worked tirelessly down the wing both at the back and going forward.

In truth it was a decent game, Leeds despite knowing their feint automatic promotion spot was over in all but name, did keep going in an attempt to win the game and it needed a couple of smart saves from Alex McCarthy to keep Saints in front, but truth was that we looked comfortable right to the end.

We looked a little back to our old selves, we had fight and we played the system well.

Both sides made multiple substitutions as you would expect, Leeds made a triple change on the hour mark, at the same time as Che Adams limped off and on came Sulemana.

I was a little disappointed that we left our remaining 3 relatively late, but I was pleased that perhaps our man of the match Flynn Downes came off with 22 minutes to go, he has struggled with injury of late, the longer the game went on I thought we were tempting fate, but we gambled and won.

On 83 mins we brough on James Bree for KWP and the one that many Saints fans wanted to see, Ross Stewart on for Adam Armstrong, there was a feeling that we had done the main job of the day and that was to put in a performance that showed that we go into the play offs in fine form and that the result was now very much secondary, it was about taking off vital players to prevent injury and giving the fringe players a game.

In truth in the 12 minutes or so Stewart was in the game, he rarely had a touch in an area that he could shine, but it was good to see him come through unscathed.

In truth the last phrase of the game even after the changes rarely saw any real scares for Saints, it went pretty much the way of the rest of the time, Leeds attempted to run at us with pace and we dealt with it fairly easily.

The final whistle saw Saints supporters a lot happier than Leeds for several reasons.

If we could have had a wish list for this game before kick off, I would say that it would pretty much have been satisfied by the final whistle, firstly show we still have the discipline and spirit, secondly show we can defend, thirdly show we can score, fourthly show we can game manage, fifthly get through without injury and finally last and firmly least, win the game, all boxes ticked.

Despite the doom & gloom of the last week, we go into the play offs with a record that is not bettered by any of the other 3 clubs , we have scored 9 points from the last 6 games. won 3 and drawn 3 , Leeds have lost 4 times and gained only 4 points, West Brom lost 3 times and gained only 7 and finally Norwich the team that everyone has been talking about as the side that makes the late charge for the top 6 and is in form, have won only 2 games and drawn 3 to be level on points with us on 9.

Indeed we have the psychological advantage, we have beaten Leeds both home & away, we have beaten West Brom both home and away and we have drawn both games with Norwich.

We should go into the mix without fear, the 3 games lost in a row caused panic, the heavy defeat at Leicester blurred our vision, we all took our eye off the ball and in fairness so did the manager.

But hopefully Russell Martin has learned a few things form the last few weeks, that when we play our best side we can win games, those that pour scorn at the so called Tippy Tappy Football can take heart that this has had to be adapted, we still play a possession based game, but with Alex McCarthy not as good with his feet as Gavin Bazunu we have cut out a lot of the more risky passes at the back, McCarthy will put his foot through the ball when closed down, when Bazunu would try another pass and our defenders also seem to know they can't play it so tight anymore.

A good day at the office for Southampton FC and more importantly it's supporters, now is the time for unity, everyone behind the team and the manager, leave the recrimination for after the final game, whenever that may be.

The Saints supporters up at Leeds were superb, although it was sold out there were a few empty seats as you would have predicted from the posts on social media from those trying to sell their tickets, they missed the point, it is easy to not go to a football game when the side are not doing well, but if we are to prosper in the play offs then the final piece in the jigsaw was the fans, the players needed to see the Southampton supporters loud and proud of their team again.

Photo: Action Images

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WestSussexSaint added 09:50 - May 5
There was a freedom about the teams play yesterday which went a long way towards making the performance and result one of the best this season. They need to replicate that in the playoffs and if they do then we stand every chance of success.

Flynn Downes was again outstanding,particularly in the first half. But there were strong performances all over the pitch. Credit to the manager too for being experimental with the formation and tactics but still playing players in their favoured positions.

Playoffs here we come!

harrapuk added 10:33 - May 5
How do you work out that our last six games include three wins and three draws when we lost three in a row?

Excellent win and at least we can go into the play offs with renewed confidence.

derbydog added 10:34 - May 5
You very nearly got through a whole piece without the usual regular misuse of the apostrophe. Shame about the “it’s” two paras from the end. Any chance you could work on using the ampersand correctly now? That annoyance has crept in in recent weeks.
Would have been nice if you had been big enough to report that Jack Stephens had a good game yesterday too!

FrankSaint added 10:36 - May 5
Is it true that Leeds fans stayed to the end and afterwards to cheer on their team despite successive home defeats and the disappointment of missing out on automatic promotion? According to Nick, saints fans didn't do the same last week? I am which set of fans deserve promotion more? Which set of fans feel entitled?

FrankSaint added 10:37 - May 5
I ask...

Bowlercow added 10:54 - May 5
Other than captain Jack getting turned by Gnoto every time and then losing the ball ten yards outside our box the defence did really well They did look a bit chaotic at times but got away with it A rash challenge by him who must play led to a penalty appeal but the ref stood firm
Downes,Smallbone and Aribo bossed the mf and took pressure off the back line
Good all round and a definite confidence boost

highfield49 added 10:55 - May 5
Let's take all of the positives, none of the very few negatives and absolutely 100% support into the play off matches. None of our upcoming opponents are better than us and the team yesterday looked confident and well organised so what have we got to fear? The clear message from the Leeds result was that the manager and players can adapt tactics to stifle opponents, lessons seemed to have been learned.

underweststand added 11:10 - May 5
Aside from doing the double over Leeds .(.is that club record ?.) it was very entertaining to see the midfield trio getting their heads down and bulldozing through the Leeds defence instead of merely playing Russball in the centre circle to keep possession.

If this is a new tactic , it's come better late than never. KWP looks better as an attacking force than he does as a full back, and sprinting after that long ball looked like a lost cause, until he kept it in and his pass was inch perfect for Will Smallbone to run onto.
Good performances all round, and for once it was difficult to criticise Alex McCarthy who made a number of vital saves at critical moments.
With this type of application we might still get the third promotion spot.

SanMarco added 12:00 - May 5
Pedantic point alert: Leeds didn't need loads of goals - just a win and an Ipswich defeat.

I thought RM did the right thing in picking a 'strong' team and we played a lot better than in the last few games. Still managed to give away a very poor goal and what should probably have been a penalty. These were both from trademark Jack mistakes but to be fair and balanced the major blunder for the equalised was from Harwood-Bellis.

This was certainly a result that helps with play-off confidence. We certainly have as good a chance as anyone. WBA will be tough if they play to their best and we are not so good - but let's face it - who knows! I just hope we play well in the first leg.

I thought KWP and Downes demonstrated their enormous importance to us - and also a good performance from Smallbone and the keeper. Anyone else think their guy should have been sent off for the 'tackle' on Adams?

JoeEgg added 12:21 - May 5
you just dont know what will happen next! the form of the top teams is so up and down and no two matches are ever alike!
the play-offs will be a lottery and I wouldn't count Leeds out but at least Saints fans must be feeling better after this game.
I think we all agreed for the remaining matches we must get behind the players, hope the players put in the effort, and pray that Wussell doesn't change things too much and try to be clever. Was that really OUR midfield charging its way through the opposition instead of playing tippy tappy? So much better to see KWP attacking the opposition with other players providing defensive cover - most of the time - to allow him the freedom to operate e when necessary as a winger.
So who knows what will happen next? 4 teams all with a chance, with Saints and Leeds clear favourites.

halftimeorange added 14:43 - May 5
It made me think that had we have adapted out tactics to suit other games played recently in the way that we did yesterday we might have already been in the promised land. There is no doubt that we have the strongest squad of the four remaining competing teams (whether any are good enough to sustain more than one season in the EPL is open to question) but, will we turn up for our final three games. That has been the problem since our "run" ended. If they ever make a footballing version of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly then Saints are surely the requisite team. I think I smell Wembley at the very least.

Colburn added 14:58 - May 5
Downes and Smallbone first class and Stephens had a magnificent game in various roles. Defensively we were solid aside from the one moment where 2 errors resulted in their goal but when you analyse it, there was a lack of movement and options for the player in possession. It’s a team game, we defend from the front and attack from the back. I thought McCarthy looked settled, dare I say comfortable. KWP looked a bigger threat first half with the freedom with 3 centre backs. Might be the way Martin wants to set up at Brom next Sunday.
Finally those of you moaning about Martin… we ended the season on 87 points, only 1 point less than under Adkins 2012. Indeed, 3rd placed West Ham ended with 86, so our 87 this year would have been enough for automatic in 2012. Stick that in your dumbarsed pipes and smoke it.. and this in the toughest season ever in this league and after losing our engine room a few weeks into the season.. Our performance yesterday and result was because we had togetherness and leadership on the pitch. At which school did you learn that each time you concede a goal, it means you have no leadership..? Other teams are allowed to have moments too. Yesterday we showed we have what it takes to at least get to the final and that with 87 points is a fantastic season.

Boris1977 added 15:27 - May 5
It took the 46th game of the season to get the tactics right and great to see the too often repeated stat of 2/3rds possession but still dropping points.

Not getting carried away as arguably having the 'best' squad is not reflected in the final table. Over to RM to prepare the team and make the correct tactical choices to suit the circumstances rather than trying to over think and trying to be 'clever'.

Well done to the fans who travelled up to Yorkshire in the early hours.


ItchenNorth added 16:28 - May 5
Saints under Martin have always played their best football against the the best sides (Leicester aside). We need teams to come at us, to press us high, as the entire philosophy of our game is to beat the press. I was confident that with our strongest available 11, we'd beat Leeds.

As we head into the Playoffs, hopefully these better teams will also come at us and not sit back!

Whatsforpud added 18:55 - May 5
I notice that in Nick's report that he didn't name Harwood Bellis as the one who gave the ball away for Leeds' goal. Had it been Jack Stephens ......................!

IanRC added 19:35 - May 5
Great to see Ross Stewart back and at least one good interchange (in the short time they were on the pitch) with Sulemana. Hope Martin has well and truly learnt his lesson and that we can press on in the next 3 games.

LordDZLucan added 20:48 - May 5
I’ve said in previous posts that we’d be better playing 3 centre backs because KWP and Manning are better wing backs than they are full backs. We are so much more solid defensively with this formation. We must stick with it in the playoffs.

SanMarco added 21:05 - May 5
To be accurate Whatsforpud, JS DID give the ball away for their goal. Harwood-Bellis did too afterwards. Nick obviously chose to name neither one.

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