• Sharp 58′, 75′
Saturday, 24th March 2012
Match Report :
It was an interesting game today, and, as many of us predicted, not as easy a win for Southampton as some people might have thought it was going to be.
Ultimately, team strength won out and although Doncaster played some nice football it's very obvious that they have been put together from disparate places and the ex-Portsmouth striker from West Ham (sorry, can't spell his name!) Looks very tidy but they just don't know where to find him or he runs in the wrong place, given time it might gell but I'm not sure they've got it?
Anyway, anyone care much about this stuff because today? we won and we really needed to keep the pressure on and we did.
Player Ratings :
Davis - honestly, very little to do for him again, I love it when I can write that, a little used goalkeeper is something we should pray for and after his heroics lately I'm sure he's glad of the respite. 5/10, nothing to do, nothing bad, nothing great, just unremarkable although I can say his distribution was nice today.
Butterfield - I saw Fraser Richardson before the game (he was in corporate doing all the player speaks bit) and he said that Butterfield was going to play instead of him as he had a thigh tear he had been dealing with for a while. I had been looking forward to Butterfield playing all year as some of his crossing is just super but I thought he looked very short of game time and I can't say that he impressed me all that much today even if he did little wrong. 6/10, kept tidy in defence but his crossing, usually so effective, was a little off today.
Fonte - had to do well as Doncaster quickly spotted the overhead ball to Jos was going to be a loser for them so they switched to Fonte, a couple of tricky moments but all in all I think he did okay today and looked more solid than he did the last game I saw. 7/10, he didn't do anything wrong but they had very little going forward in the last third to worry us.
Hooiveld - looked very comfortable, not to close today the actually getting on the end of any corners or anything but he did well and dominated in the air defensively. Pretty much unworried really by much today and a good solid 6/10.
Fox - I felt Fox was very good defensively today, there was a couple of moments when I thought he had cooked up but he made some very effective blocks and tackles today and I thought looked very sound without wearing himself out too much in the heat. 7/10, left side of defence was the best today but again, not much to deal with (which is great)
Lallana - he had a very tidy little creative game today, the last ball just didn't seem to want to fall to him but I thought he was very effective and I can only think the reason he came off was to save him as he certainly wasn't needed to slice up Doncaster. Unlucky not to get a goal and an easy 7/10 for him.
Schneiderlin - in places he ran the show, in others I was very frustrated at his slowness of thought and action, there were times crying out for him to release the ball in the right place and he just wasn't aware of his teammates and what they were doing. It was a hot day for our laconic French midfield dynamo so I will give him the benefit of the doubt but he should have taken this game by the scruff of the neck and I felt he didn't quite give this what he can, 7/10.
Cork - a patchy game from Corky, I was getting used to his all action style but again today I think the temperatures and the outnumbering in midfield didn't help him. He ran a lot for somebody in that kind of heat and I think he definitely got into it more as the game went on, probably due to his fitness levels telling against some of the opposition. 7/10, mostly effective and good to see him back in the team, needs a bit of a run now.
De Ridder - I don't like it when Steve starts a game, I know every footballer wants to be a starter but, certainly from what I've seen this year, he's much more effective coming on against tiring opposition. I think you also need to know when to play simple balls or to keep hold of it and he frustrates me a lot today by losing the ball in important stages of counter-attack and Sts were breaking out of defensive areas. That said, there were a few flashes of what he can do and some of his crossing was okay, but for me he was probably no better than 5/10 today, he can definitely do better than this.
Sharp - probably a bit of a traumatic game for him today but he did what he needed to do and put in a very professional performance.
I thought he looked trimmer, fitter & although his touch is still a little bit off (lack of gametime won't help) he looked dangerous all game and I'm pleased he got his start. Took his goals well and apart from the bit of bother with Chimbonda (where I really thought something stupid was going to happen, I'm glad it didn't) made a very good down payment on our investment in him 8/10 MOM (he had to do well in this game and he took his chance really well)
Lambert - so often our talisman, today he wasn't good and I don't know whether he was carrying an injury or just tired but I was glad when he was substituted as he was breaking our play up. He'll be back but for today a disappointing 4/10, if he had won the penalty which he should have had I'd have been more kind, next time out he'll be back up to speed I have no doubt.
Barnard - looks like he might have finally fixed his ankle as he seemed much more positive and sharper all over the pitch, obviously need gametime now but good to see him back and looking the part after so long out. 5/10, didn't get given much to do anything with but good to have him back on board.
Hammond - brought on to calm things down and shut down the midfield although he also spent an amount of time (from the small amount of time he actually spent on the pitch) attacking unusually for him. 5/10, not much time to influence but stopped their midfield numbers from becoming dominating at the end of the game.
Chaplow - did lots of running and although he got a little confused with lallana when he was on the pitch (they seem to be sharing the same space occasionally?) Looked like his energy levels gave us a boost and benefited the team as a whole and our approach at beating Doncaster which at times looked a little staid. 6/10, good running, needs to get his shooting eye in again.
In the end it was reasonably comfortable but the damnable Diamond made it tricky initially and there were periods in the first half when the midfield was completely irrelevant.
By and large Doncaster are seriously underrated but you can tell they are a patchwork team put together by somebody else and then given to the manager to play the games. You have a feeling if they ever had enough time and consistency of playing staff they might actually do really well, I can certainly see why they would have given certain teams trouble.
However, today was our day and although we started slightly wobbly it was never really in doubt, it was just a matter of being patient and it all worked out.
We've got some hard games coming up so I'm glad the squad was rotated and we were still successful, that could have been a very very important game today and I'm glad we actually did the business without too much trouble.
I still don't like the bloody diamond but as long as he keeps winning I don't think he's going to be dropping its use any time soon… At this point in time I'll take the wins as well.
I love this team, even when things do not quite go according to plan Saints (2011 version) are adaptable enough to change and overcome.
Not so long ago, the sight of Rickie Lambert going off injured early in the second half, with the score at 0-0, would have had me thinking it was not going to be our day.
Now Saints have players in depth and Billy Sharp, who had previously been disappointing, although with flashes of promise, stepped up to the plate and boy, did he deliver. Not only that, but later in the game we were treated to a cameo appearance by Lee Barnard. Pleasingly he looked far more effective than the last couple of times he had been seen.
I am now having trouble keeping my expectations in check. And I bet that I am not alone.
20 Lallana (Hammond - 78' )
33 De Ridder (Barnard - 67' )
07 Lambert (Chaplow - 49' )
11 Sharp Booked
11 Lockwood Booked
16 Oster Booked (Robert - 90' )
17 Barnes (Brown - 79' )
18 Gillett Booked
26 Coppinger (Bennett - 65' )
10 Diouf Booked