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Walsall

Saturday, 7 May 2011
Ref: Scott
Att:
31,653

Southampton
01 Davis
02 Richardson
05 Dickson (Harding 77)
06 Fonte
15 Jaidi - yellow card
04 Schneiderlin (Chaplow 71)
11 Guly (Oxlade-Chamberlain 58)
14 Hammond
20 Lallana
07 Lambert
22 Connolly

Substitutes
24 Bialkowski
03 Harding
17 Martin
19 Seaborne
26 Oxlade-Chamberlain
30 Chaplow
08 Forte


Walsall
29 Walker
05 Lancashire
14 Taundry
28 Williams
32 Butler
08 Richards - yellow card
18 Gray - yellow card
26 Laird
27 Cook (Ledesma 60)
10 Macken (Byfield 71)
23 Gbarssin (Grigg 35)

Substitutes
21 Bevan
02 Westlake
06 Smith
30 Ledesma
09 Byfield
11 Nicholls
19 Grigg

Southampton 3

• Guly 26
• Connolly 29
• Oxlade-Chamberlain 68

Walsall 1

• Gray 45+3

What a fabulous day! I arrived at St Mary's at 12 noon and met my pre mach tour party. It was mainly a group from AAP3, the shirt sponsors for next year. It was good to introduce them to the kit man as he will be the first person to see the new shirts with the sponsors logo on. We saw lots of players and the atmosphere was building even though it was 3 hours to kick off.

I was able to take my wife on the tour and when it was finished went up to the Terry Paine Lounge for lunch. We went out to our seats quite early as it was a very hot and humid day and it was just that bit cooler out in the stadium. We watched the crowd grow and the noise level grew as well, it was an electric atmosphere. We had two of the best seats in the stadium, just along side the Directors Box. It was not long before we were joined by Nigel Adkins wife Angie, their two sons plus Nigel's Mum and Dad. I had met them before several times but was able to introduce them to Naomi. (my wife) Angie and Naomi had a good chat.

The team sheet showed that apart from Lee Barnard NA had almost a full squad to chose from and I suggest this was his strongest squad bar Barnard. It was Davis, Richardson, Jaidi, Fonte, Dickson, Guly, Hammond, Scneiderlin, Lallana, Connolly and Lambert. The bench was: Bialowski, Harding, Forte, Martin, Seaborne, Chamberlain, and Chaplow. No room for Stevens or Gobern.

As the teams came out on to the pitch the stadium rose as one to greet them. On each seat, either a red or white large card had been placed, and everyone held up their cards and it looked very impressive. A sea of red and white. The noise was incredible. In all my watching football i have never felt such emotion, you had to be there to feel it. The Walsall fans were there in large numbers and in good voice too which helped swell the noise.

The kick off was almost an anti climax such had been the pre match build up. Saints took the game to Walsall and it is no exaggeration to say we could have been two or three goals up in the first ten minutes. Saints were over-playing things, such was their confidence, chances were being missed on a regular basis or were blocked or saved by a very good 'keeper. The visitors had their moments but they were few and far between but they showed enough to make saints defence a little jittery a couple of times.

However, nearing the half hour mark Guly, who had been his usual mixture of the sublime and the too casual, picked up a superb pass from the impressive Connolly to fire home the opening goal. The flood gates threatened to open and within minutes a brilliant bout of close passing saw Connolly released and he mad no mistake to put saints 2 -0 up.

Saints seemed to think it was all over and went in to cruse control with Hammond and Scneiderlin looking impressive, but the visitors would not give in and some lax play at the back saw them get a very good goal in the 3 minutes of added on time in the first half. Somehow it did not seem to matter! The party was in full swing.

No changes at the start of the second half but Walsall sensed they could still get something from the game and they went on the offensive. This opened the game up and it was sometimes like a testimonial with acres of space for both teams, the visitors missed a few chances but saints missed a bucketful.

With about half an hour to go NA brought on Alex Chamberlain to a great roar from the crowd. Guly had a standing ovation as he came off -very slowly- milking the applause. Chamberlain's first touch was to take the ball in on goal and fire against the post. It was not too long though before a shrewd pass from Lambert put the youngster through on the right, he turned inside and hit a sweet left foot shot across the keeper in to the net.

The crowd were still in great voice, not only Saints but the Walsall contingent, they must have had some radios with them and they knew fellow relegation strugglers Dagenham were losing so they began to sing 'we are staying up, we are staying up.'
For a while it was all Saints and I lost count of the number of chances we missed, the usually reliable Connolly and Chamberlain were the chief culprits. Chaplow came on for the tiring Scneiderlin, and Harding for Dickson. As the game petered out in a bedlam of noise Chaplow glanced a an excellent header that just shaved the post.

The final whistle blew and pandemonium broke out - but all good humoured. Saints fans engulfed the team as they tried to get off.

I felt we had no individual weaknesses today, it was a funny sort of display, saints carved out countless chances but we were not ruthless enough. Understandably we played the ball around, looking in full control but not finishing the visitors off. Schneiderlin looked as though he had never been out of the side with a bad injury, he looked very impressive with both his passing and tackling, he seemed to inspire Hammond who i thought had an excellent game today.

At the back Fonte was his usual strong self. Surprisingly Adam Lallana did not get too many chances but he was well marshalled by the visitors. Lambert and Connolly both showed good awareness and on another day Connolly might have had a hat trick. Lambert as usual used the ball well. KD did not have too many saves to make but had to come off his line a few times to claim the ball. So no one to criticise - it would be churlish to do so on this day of celebration.

Well done to Walsall and their fans. It was good to see the instant applause from Saints fans when the stadium announcer gave out the score Peterborough 5 Dagenham and Redbridge 0. Walsall were safe and we joined them in their applause. A good moment, but we could afford to be generous!

Soon the pitch became a sea of saints fans, I have never seen such a sight in my life, many thousands covering the whole pitch, dancing, singing, cheering and I suspect some crying tears of joy. It was all good natured and the stewards could see there was no way of holding the fans back so they left them alone once the players were off. The players eventually escaped to the safety of the dressing room and reappeared alongside us in front of the Directors Box.

They held up the trophy awarded for second place and took the cheers and songs from the crowd. Nigel joined them and I turned to his family along side of us, they were on their feet cheering madly, clicking away with their cameras. I must say it was an awesome sight looking down on a pitch covered in red and white. I was glad to be up high in a safe viewing area.

The cup was handed by one of the team to Nicola Cortese who held it high with a beaming smile, he then handed to the gentleman alongside him who was so much like Markus that I can only presume it was his brother. What a joy it was to see him hold the trophy aloft. I so wished it could have been Markus himself. I assume other members of the Liebherr family were there, they could not have failed but to have been impressed by the enthusiasm of the saints fans, it could not have been bettered had we won the European Cup! Eat your heart out Mourinio. sp

The celebrations were still going on when Naomi and I fought our way through the crowd to make our way home. I bumped in to the ref on my way through the reception area, I stopped and shook his hand and said well done ref. He had a good game and refereed with sense and kept control in a very noisy atmosphere in front of a nigh on 32,000 crowd. I enjoyed it he said.

Here endeth my final report of an exciting season. It is good to be a Saints fan tonight.

Herbie (sorry about the typos, too tired to care)