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Southampton 2 Watford 0 (13/01/2016) 14/01/2016

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.
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1- Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.

In days of recent past I used to reminisce about when we were good. I mean, really good. I don’t need to elaborate, I’m sure you’ve done the same. Last night, just ever so briefly as we navigated the congested industrial estate adjacent to St Mary’s before kick-off trying to suss where we could park legally without committing ourselves to misery getting out again afterwards, I pined for the days when it was perfectly reasonable to rock up an hour before kick-off without a ticket. Spread out over a few seats, sit with whoever had rocked up.

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This was a passing breeze of a sentiment that lasted a fraction of a second, not even a fully-fledged thought. Fate was watching. however, and eager to punish that moment’s weakness. What followed was an evening’s lesson, a reminder of where we were when we were sh*t, as the song goes; every feature of every miserable away trip you’ve ever had rolled up in a soggy Ginsters wrap of sewage.

Cold, relentless rain as persistent and pervasive as overloud headphones in a train carriage. Taking shelter in the bleakest, sparsest of pubs in which the clientele sat with their backs to the wall and the gents door, unlabelled, was propped open. In the ground, a pastie with filling hotter than the sun and seats designed for people with one thigh, necessitating staggered standing throughout. After the game the inevitable, unavoidable visitor’s calamity, quite which queue to join, satnavs no help here. We’re going somewhere, but very very slowly. Then, eventually, the M3 is closed and its would-be-passengers navigate small villages instead where roundabouts are controlled by traffic lights on timers, irrespective of the fact that at getting on for midnight everyone’s going the same way. By the time we’re back in St Albans I’m several trains later than planned and, naturally, the one I’d hoped maybe I’d just about make has caught up on itself and is gone before I get to the platform. The twenty minutes’ wait for the next is not a happy one. This morning, the damp smell of my scarf evoked the previous evening’s joy all over again.

2- And as for the bloody football. Jesus. You’ll have the gist by now, whether you were there or following somehow, or doing something more profitable with your lives so there’s little value in dissecting the detail. Suffice to say that this was a complete aberration by this season’s standards, which made the shock all the more acute. We’ve lost games this season and often deserved to, but never been well beaten, and never – except arguably during a clumsy first half at Bournemouth – looked so hapless. Indeed, not having been to Preston, I’d probably argue that this is the first time I’ve seen us play badly. Certainly the first time we’ve been thrashed. The only thing that the evening lacked was a needless, petulant red card… and Troy can’t have been that far off, reacting to one of what was admittedly a series of unpunished niggly Saints fouls, this time on Ighalo, by exacting cathartic full-blooeded revenge and following up with a mouthful of frustration at the official. Fortunately, only a yellow.

3- This wasn’t all our own doing, far from it. Southampton were excellent; if Manchester City showcased their quality in a different way, by pulling out a couple of lethal moments of brilliance to smuggle away a game in which they hadn’t played terribly well, only Arsenal’s masterclass at the Vic outstripped this in terms of sheer ebullience. The much-discussed how-to-beat-two-strikers guide step 1, three centre-backs, was on show again with Virgil Van Dijk in particularly absolutely bossing anything that came near him. Combined with this was a ferociously high press that left us nowhere to go in possession but sideways, back and forth with unusual anxiety until we gave away possession (occasionally comically and precariously) or, at the very least, the home side were set and camped behind the ball. We were too slow, too deliberate, and much much too static… and with the forwards isolated and rendered largely irrelevant, Quique’s stated desire to add variety to our armoury via a genuine wing-threat has never looked more credible. Or to put it another way, if Daniel Levy was watching he’ll be feeling confident about his ability to eke out a few more quid for Andros Townsend. We needed something.

4- The Saints could and should have had more; we barely created a chance all night whilst the home side through their fast breaking and good delivery from wide found spaces all too easily. Some chances they missed, some were denied – most frequently by the faultless Gomes. However for all of that, there was one goal in it for an awfully long time. Dad argued as we left that we’d been doing fine until conceding the first… by the time we were crawling through Little Bumfluff in Surrey at stupid’o’clock that had mutated to “we’d definitely have won if…”. Certainly, the first goal was significant- we’ve gotten it first in awkward games and prevailed. Not so here. But less disputably, having gone behind we weren’t at the races, Southampton took their advantage and ran off gleefully with it, taunting us like big kids who’d nicked a little kid’s satchel. As chances came and went however I won’t have been the only one who thought “we’re might pinch something here”, not least when Jurado – one of several who just didn’t seem to fancy the whole thing – played a miserable square pass across his own penalty area to Mané, a Boruc-worthy error that saw the forward step inside a challenge and hit a sweet shot off the outside of Gomes’ right-hand post. I’ll bet a few of the home fans were thinking that too, thinking “wouldn’t it be just typical if…”. That sort of miss reeks “we’re going to stuff this up”. It wouldn’t have taken a lot – it would have been daylight robbery and all the more enjoyable for it, but it wouldn’t have taken a lot. We didn’t have anything.

5- So that’s that, then. One bad defeat in isolation, unhelpfully coming on the back of two further (League) defeats from which we emerged with infinitely more credit. It doesn’t need to be disastrous, though there’s obviously stuff that needs sorting. Above all, to reiterate, it’s the first trashing, the first stinker of a season in which it would have been very reasonable to expect this as the norm. To be fair, the boos in the away end were very few, the noise level was kept high and team and manager were lauded at the end. Slightly irksome was the speed with which the visiting crowd jumped on gallows humour, as if over-eager to revisit the songs we used to sing when we really weren’t very good a lot of the time. Thing is, “how sh*t must you be, we’re higher than you” and cheering our occasional shots with sarcasm, whilst gentle in the grand scheme of things, isn’t terribly supportive either. However atrocious the evening and the performance were, they’ve earned a little more patience than that.

Enough. I’m so tired I can barely type, and have no desire to mull over that ghastliness again. Swansea next, a fixture which both sides, in need of a win, might feel has fallen nicely. If we make sure it’s us that takes the opportunity then that’s our little wobble over and done with.

You orns.

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Comments»

1. Wrighty - 14/01/2016

i didn’t follow the game, I spent over 2 hours in a PTA meeting, I feel like I got off lightly

2. Goldenboy60 - 14/01/2016

We were out thought, out run, out played and were fortunate it wasn’t 5. Gomes the hero in that one.

Having coached at a very high level, there is a very easy way to combat the 3 central defenders. Get the ball down the outside of the wider centre halfs. This eliminates the wing backs who tended to be higher up the pitch and wider. Running back to their own goal they cannot tackle in fear of fouling them especially because they will be tackling on their weaker foot. That pulls the nearest CH towards the ball, allowing more space in the penalty area. But both Abdi, Jurado, Ighalo and Deeney seemed reluctant to do that. Ighalo and Deeney seemed to want to go up against all 3 centre half’s and have a physical battle which we lost also.

But we looked lethargic and our decision making in our passing was very negative and poor in quality.

So yes Matt, a nice timely reminder for us all that we should never ever think we’ve made it. The very wet rain and the game made it one of those evenings. But over time I’ve learned to take those on the chin, because it makes the nicer away days even nicer.

Its football and don’t we just love it.

By the way, Southampton were fantastic and on that evidence could finish in the top 6. So their 4 0 win on Boxing Day over Arsenal was no fluke, and made our result look good.

Lets hope that we can get back to our best at Swansea. But I’m certain that that will be another very difficult one.

3. Billy - 15/01/2016

You’ve summed up the night, and especially the walk in the rain and subsequent M3 diversion, perfectly. However, I’d taken half a day off work (and by the time I’d pressed snooze about 15 times, another half day) and a decent amount of money to go there on a wet, Wednesday night. So I was happy joining in with the “how sh*t must you be” chants, even though I usually tend to shy away from those types. It was one of those moments that, I think a bit of recognition between fans and players that it was so bad it was comical and should be treated as such.

We still sang for 90 minutes and like a marriage – because that’s what this is – it’s better to voice some constructive criticism and recognise your off-days together than sit in silence, or worse not even being around to do that.

Their ground was half empty by the time the whistle went, which is surprising given their recent record of 2 wins in 11.

Matt Rowson - 15/01/2016

Wouldn’t question your right to join in, just the decision to do so (even under such circumstances). It’s not as if we’ve had to put up with much of this.

Ground empty was odd, but it was a crappy night, the traffic is apparently always terrible and it’s not as if we looked like making it exciting…

4. James - 15/01/2016

There’s must be something about a miserable evening that brings out the poet in you Matt. I wasn’t at the game but that really conjured up memories of past defeats on cold rainy evenings.

Nice as it was to read though, let’s hope we see too many of those.

How crucial was the absence of Cathcart from the starting line-up?

Matt Rowson - 16/01/2016

Difficult to say. Certainly we looked uncharacteristically flappable, and Britos has never looked as uncomfortable but there were a lot of things going wrong…

5. RS - 15/01/2016

I was holding my breath but sadly it has all become clear – no in depth analysis required;

Manager and Player of the month – bah

Thanks for taking the trouble to report too!


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