Our Last Trip To Portman Road Went Okay - Notes For The Southampton Replay
Wednesday, 14th Jan 2015 05:04 by HarryFromBath
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Wednesday night’s FA Cup replay by delving into their forums.
“For all of us who have been schlepping up and down the country for the last 30-plus years following the Saints, can I just say that this team, management, board and owner are all we ever dreamed of? Thank you to all of you. You are making some old cynics very, very happy.”
Southampton secured a memorable 1-0 away win against Manchester United on Sunday thanks to a second half strike by substitute Dusan Tadic. Their first victory at Old Trafford since 1988 has left supporters both euphoric and starting to believe that a top-four finish is eminently achievable this season.
“Well that wasn’t too shabby, was it?”, “What was that about Southampton having no ambition, Dejan Lovren? Seven points above Liverpool – get in there. We had a plan and it worked”, “There is no reason why we can’t keep going on as we have been”, “It sets us up well for the week ahead.”
Saints’ Reflections Before and During Our First Game
“Even with our strongest team this will be a difficult game”, “To expect to easily beat Ipswich putting in fringe players and youngsters is dangerous. They are a tough team. If we don’t put out a strong team, we will struggle to break them down”, “This will be difficult even with our strongest team.”
Saints by and large afforded us a huge amount of wary respect before the game. “Definite banana skin this one, as Ipswich are a decent well-organised side who will want to prove they can mix it with the Premier League boys”, “It’s an intriguing fixture and a welcome relief from the league.”
“Ward-Prowse starts at right-back. Who would have thought it?” Many Saints had misgivings about playing the midfielder as a full-back and weren’t surprised when we took advantage. “Was Ward-Prowse the weak spot?”, “It was an easy cross and a decent header but there’s a long way to go.”
“Watch that Ipswich goal and it’s a pretty decent move”, “Their goal was a great finish.” Our left-back was being widely praised. “I can see why Arsenal want Mings, the best player on the pitch”, “Mings looks a class act. We should go in for him.”
“Thanks Christ for that.” There was relief when Morgan Schneiderlin poked in the Saints’ equaliser, but the half-time consensus was that the team had “barely got out of second or third gear” before our goal. “The defence has been poor and Long even worse with no composure. They need a rollicking.”
“Is this game now as one-sided as the Twitter feed suggests?”, “Saints are well on top now, with Ipswich hacking the ball away”, “We have plenty of the ball now but we’re just not working the keeper enough”, “We are not putting away enough of our chances.”
Southampton fans felt that their team were comfortably on top after the break, but grew anxious as time started running out. “Hmm, 15 minutes left”, “I can see an away goal coming if we’re not careful”, “It looks like the other Premier League teams are getting late goals.”
“A replay it is then.” Most Saints’ thoughts as the game ended turned to the inconvenience of playing consecutive games at Manchester, Ipswich and Newcastle within a week. “Nightmare”, “This is a bad result for both teams”, “We’ve got a horrible away fixture to contend with now.”
Saints’ Post-Match Reflections
“I’m gutted. We dominated the second half but wasted all our opportunities, trying to walk the ball into the net. No one was brave enough to have a shot”, “Everyone seemed scared to have a shot on goal”, “If we play anywhere near our best in the replay we should beat them comfortably.”
The Saints post-match inquest flagged up three areas which needed addressing. They felt that they started the game at too casual a tempo, they didn’t capitalise on their dominance of possession and territory after the break and their forwards carried no threat.
Their Man of the Match was Steven Davis, with Victor Wanyama the only other player out of the starting XI to feature well. “Wanyama was immense today. Nothing got past him”, “Davis was the only player who was operating at anything like his normal tempo.”
“We were poor in the first half-hour. Ward-Prowse struggled with his positioning and pace. This cost us the goal. He was told to push forward after the break and there was a huge improvement”, “Pelle had a nightmare and won nothing in the air, and Long’s running around was ineffective.”
As for us, there was plenty of praise for our defensive display mixed with the odd familiar observation from a very small minority. “Ipswich are playing well and it was a tough game. We were the better side but didn’t convert chances to show for it. We’ll just have to go and do it up there.”
“They came to defend and frustrate and that’s exactly what they did”, “It was a poor performance against a mediocre team of little skill who parked the bus. Football doesn’t get much duller than this”, “We just got crowded out in the end and didn’t have the spark to break them down.”
“Ipswich didn’t come out to win it in the second half. They stuck 10 men behind the ball and defended well. We ran out of ideas. Our balls into the box weren’t good enough so we tried to play through the middle and got crowded out”, “We ran out of ideas in and around the 18-yard box.”
“We kept crossing the ball in even though Ipswich won the aerial battle fairly comfortably. We needed to mix it up but were reluctant to shoot”, “Ipswich were a typical Mick McCarthy side, solid but unspectacular”, “We put enormous pressure on them but they handled it well.”
“If I really had to name a Man of the Match, on first half performance I would have said Tyrone Mings, although he faded in the second half. It’s a pity we let him go – he really does look useful. It was great vision and run to get behind Ward-Prowse for the cross for their goal.”
“Why on earth did we give the Ipswich fans the entire Northam Stand?”, “What other club allows its singing end to be completely sold to the visitors?”, “Our most vocal home supporters were split asunder by a stupid seating policy for away fans.”
“You have got to give Ipswich fans credit, though. They were very good apart from the several renditions of ‘Oh when the Town…’ What the **** was that all about?”
Manchester United 0 – 1 Southampton
“I had an incredibly vivid dream this morning about today’s game. We won 3-0. My wife said I was cheering in my sleep and yelling ‘Get in’”, “It sounds about as convincing a prediction as anything Lawro ever came up with”, “I have got a feeling we’re going to end United’s unbeaten run.”
Many Saints believed they could win before Sunday’s game, a belief borne out of a comparison of the teams and not out of hubris. “They are an ordinary side trading on their past reputation”, “United have a superb array of attacking talent and a dodgy defence, and we are the opposite.”
Southampton made three changes for Sunday’s encounter from our Cup game. Nathaniel Clyne recovered from a foot injury and started in his customary right-back role, with James Ward-Prowse moving further up field.
Toby Alderweireld replaced Florin Gardos at centre-back, but was substituted for the Romanian with an injury early on in the game. Dusan Tadic made way on the left for new loan signing Eljero Elia. The Dutch international is unavailable for the replay having not been registered for the first game.
“That was an incredible defensive display. That is a real team”, “This team is not like Saints of previous years. Koeman has instilled belief and steel into the side. Fifteen goals conceded all season is incredible”, “Look up ‘defensive masterclass’ in the coaching manual and it will link to that game.”
“That defence was simply amazing”, “Jose Fonte didn’t put a foot wrong and dominated Robin van Persie.” Saints gave their Man of the Match award to their captain. “’Fonte has taken the mantle from Lovren’ according to Carragher. Shhh – it was Fonte that was making Lovren look good.”
Manchester United did not manage a shot on target, this being one fewer than Chelsea’s total in their 1-1 draw at St Mary’s on the Sunday before our game. One United fan summed up their feelings this: “I’m glad to see the back of this lot. We barely created a chance against them in two games.”
“Go on, BBC - try and edit that to make it look like United dominated. They’ll need shots from the warm-up”, “Ron’s tactics were up there with Trapattoni’s. It was like watching the away leg of a Champions League semi-final”, “It’s weird knowing that the Champions League is a possibility.”
Southampton’s centre backs and holding midfielders formed an impenetrable block of four, cutting out passes and crowding out runners on the ball. They comfortably handled United’s change of tack when they tried to go direct using Marouane Fellaini as a focal point.
Interestingly, their fans regularly commented on how quiet their wide players were. “Clyne had a sound game and was not as much of an attacking force as usual. He didn’t dominate Luke Shaw but rarely got beaten either”, “Bertrand had a quiet game and was all at sea at times against Valencia.”
This victory has turned the hope of Champions League qualification into a real possibility for many Saints. “Maybe, just maybe people might start to take us seriously now as a team that shakes up the routine of the big clubs sharing out all the bloody glory”, “We can do this top three thing now.”
One small footnote was a reflection by one Saint on a comment by the manager of our opponents on Saturday: “Can anyone find that interview when we beat Millwall in the Cup and Ian Holloway said that we were nowhere near Premier League standard?”
Saints’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“The second part of this week’s trilogy. I would personally rest most of our players for the Newcastle trip. Yes, a Cup win would be nice but a top-four goal is suddenly looking like a serious target”, “Let’s play the kids against Ipswich. We’ve got a serious chance in the league and can’t afford injuries.”
While the win at Old Trafford has opened the door to a top-four finish, injuries to Toby Alderweireld and Sadio Mane have highlighted a major threat to achieving this, namely the fragility of their squad. “Squad size is all that will stop us doing something great this season.”
“Strongest possible side, Ronald”, “I'd like a strong side, partly because I want us to keep in the Cup, obviously, and partly because losing is just bad for the morale. I don't want us going into the Newcastle game having just lost to Ipswich. I want them full of confidence.”
“Play the best team that's available with a view to substituting key players when we've got a decent lead. There is no reason at all to think that a lesser Saints team could beat Ipswich, who I would say are currently stronger than some in the lower half of the Premier League.”
“It is crazy how yesterday’s result makes me care less about this game. The chances of us finishing in the top four didn't significantly improve and we really should go as strong as possible in this game. Yet in the back of my head I am just starting to wonder what the priority should be.”
All discussion has really been about how to rotate their squad. The most popular fringe players in pre-match team selections are left-back Matt Targett, central midfielder Harrison Reed and winger Lloyd Isgrove, who featured against us in the second half of our first game.
“Oh dear there's a virus going round the Ipswich camp. Hope they don't infect our lot.” There has been little said about us since the original Cup game, but our bout of illness has been picked up on today.
“Mick McCarthy said they have three midfielders out with a virus. As they have Saturday and Wednesday games for a few weeks and a small squad he has said that he will make changes again and play a similar team to the first game, ie not their strongest.”
Notes for the original Southampton Cup game, including an in-depth look at their team, can be found here.
Photo: Action Images
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