Barclays Premier League
St.Mary's - Sunday 7th October 2012
Attendance : 28,004
José Fonte topped and tailed the game with a priceless pair of goals, as Saints once again failed to kill off a team. In fact three out of the four goals were scored by Saints Centre Halves, but unfortunately Jos Hooiveld managed to put the ball beyond his own goalkeeper for a spectacular own goal.
The day didn't start very well when we found out that both Ramírez and Clyne were injured. It turned out that both had been injured in training and were suffering from dead legs. In Gastón's case he had spent a couple of night's in hospital and could be out for several weeks.
Fox and Puncheon were recalled and it was a start up front for Jay Rodriguez after his brace of goals against Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup.
There was a sense of nervousness about the fans at kick-off, not quite sure what to make of the absence of both Clyne and Ramírez without any previous mention of any problems.
The negativity was dispelled within four minutes as, almost from the off, Saints won a corner. Lallana took it from the left and Fonte leaping at the near post lifted it beyond Schwartzer in the Fulham goal. 1-0. Pretty good start then.
Then came the moment which was to cause Saints problems later in in the game. Richardson at left back was tracking back to cover when he suddenly went down like a sack of potatoes and was clearly in trouble. After a brief examination he was taken off, Yoshida was moved to right back and Hooiveld came on to fill in at Centre Half.
Saints though still looked confident going forward and just after the quarter hour they crafted a good chance from Fox, through Davis to Rodriguez, who passed it to Lambert. Unfortunately Rickie pulled it wide of the far post.
Shortly after this Saints had another corner and from another Lallana cross, Jason Puncheon hit the base of a post. Almost immediately Puncheon thought he had scored, after another corner on the other side, Fox crossed and Lambert headed down for Puncheon to tap in. This was ruled out by the referee and the fans assumed it was something to do with Schwartzer falling over, but it was for Rickie Lambert climbing all over a fulham defender to head the ball down.
Saints had by far the best chances during the first half and with the exception of a misjudged header causing a bit of excitement for Gazzaniga in first half injury time, the Argentinian youngster had looked comfortable in Saints goal.
The second half began with another chance falling to Rickie Lambert. Schneiderlin, in space, crossed to an unmarked Lambert who, uncharacteristically blazed it over the bar.
Fulham then began to press Saints hard, with Rodallega bringing an amazing stop out of Gazzaniga, which had most of the crowd on it's feet applauding. The pressure though was starting to tell, with Saints defence increasingly looking panicked. The ball then fell to Riise, who was some 25 yards out and he thumped a shot which was clearly going to go wide, when Hooiveld slid in, attempting to clear and put the ball in his own net. 1-1.
Chances continued to fall to both teams, but the Saints defence were looking anything but confident. The game appeared to be drifting towards a 1-1 draw, when a Fulham counter attack on 87 minutes, culminated in a shot from Kieran Richardson which went beyond Gazzaniga to make it 1-2. Replays showed that the shot had hit Hooiveld (clearly not his day) and taken a wicked deflection beyond the Argentinian's grasp.
Fulham thought they had it won. I thought they had it won. With the game in it's last minute of normal time, Saints won a free kick at least 40 yards from goal, close to the touchline. Fox sent in a peach of a cross and rising above the crowd was Fonte to head the ball beyond Schwartzer. 2-2.
Even now there was more drama. With five minutes of extra time, Saints pressed for the winner. The noise was deafening as the crowd urged them on. Guly, showing a great bit of skill fashioned an opening for himself, but his shot took a deflection away from the goal. More chances came and went, but Fulham managed to hang on for the draw.
So, Saints were out of the bottom three again, but there is no doubt that this was two points lost. Fulham were there for the taking, but in spite of a shaky defence, in which Hooiveld noticeably had a nightmare game, it was those missed chances in the first half that cost Saints the win.
There were some excellent performances. Gazzaniga is looking better with each passing game. Fox was back to his best, with some excellent crosses. Fonte has recovered the poise which seems to have been absent for most of this year. Yoshida sweated blood in the right back role where it became evident that he is completely left footed. Puncheon ran his heart out, providing an attacking outlet, while helping out the struggling Yoshida. Davis and Schneiderlin looked assured in midfield. A good partnership. Finally up at the sharp end Rodriguez laboured away, in spite of being clattered several times by the opposition.
It is now the international break and time for the Saints wounded to lick their wounds. We need them all fit as soon as possible, particularly Ramírez.
03 Yoshida Booked
06 Fonte Booked
22 Richardson (Hooiveld - 8' Booked )
04 Schneiderlin Booked
08 S Davis
42 Puncheon (Chaplow - 61' )
07 Lambert (Guly - 67' )
01 K Davis
07 Sidwell (Karagounis - 72' )
31 Kacaniklic (Richardson - 66' )