Leeds Well Beaten
• Hammond 10 • Lallana 25 • Connolly 52
• Gradel (pen) 90+5
Saturday, 6 August 2011
Well, here we are, a new season and Saints pick up where they left off.
I left home at lunchtime quietly optimistic, but unsure why. I meet up and travel with two others, one who comes from the Welsh valleys, close to Swansea (why would you want to watch Dyer anyway?), and the other from North Wiltshire.
Usual pointless chat while travelling, about what we did during the off season. Eventually stopping at a pub for something to eat at about 3pm (Lea/Tunch?) and then meander into Southampton. Walking to the ground there is a general air of anticipation. The crowd does not seem as big as I had been led to believe (25,860 as it happened), but clearly more than for the Argyle match last season.
Not much seemed to have changed inside the stadium. The concourse under the Kingsland has some new flat screen TV’s showing Sky, but they are way too high and it is almost impossible to read any text on the screens. Brilliant! There are also some new signs above the catering facilities (still the envy of the world!). Apart from that everything seemed much as before, even the minging bits of fabric above the Kingsland/Chapel catering outlet.
As usual, everybody played “Guess the team” before the new stadium announcer (How on earth did he get that job, he might have been talking in Klingon, for all I understood?!). When the pictures came up on the big screen, the only surprise was that of Martin to play alongside Fonte. Other than that, nothing to suggest my quiet confidence was misplaced.
I needn’t have worried. At no time during the game was I really concerned that Leeds were going to score. They were however, the most miserable, niggly, argumentative, spiteful, unpleasant, “team” I can remember, since … since the last time we played “Dirty Leeds”. No Leeds player epitomised this more than Michael Brown, who was on loan to Portsmouth last season. Indeed it was a mystery how it took the ref so long to book him and no surprise when he was eventually substituted in the 53rd minute.
You will see the stats in the column on the right, so I will not give a blow by blow account of the game (like is too short for that!), but I will say that all three goals Saints scored were excellent and we could easily had a couple more at least.
The first was scored by Hammond with an impressive run and strike after collecting a pass from the enigmatic Guly. The second was by Lallana running onto a pass from Lambert, culminating in a curling shot out of Lonergan’s reach. The third goal, which came in the second half, was great interplay between Connolly and Lallana. Connolly picked the ball up, passed it to Lallana and ran onto the return, before coolly slotting the ball past the hapless Lonergan.
“Dirty Leeds” scored in the dying seconds of extra time through a highly dubious penalty. Martin was adjudged to have handled the ball. At the time I missed it, but having watched it on TV several times since, I really don’t see how being hit in the chest by the ball can be handball. Still, these things have a habit of evening themselves up over the season.
Finally, I will run through those we saw on Saturday and my thoughts on their contributions :
Kelvin Davis - Didn’t really have a whole lot to do. He did make a good early save from Howson and another save from Billy Painter when he was clean through on goal in the second half. He did take my breath away at one point in the first half when he threw the ball out from the edge of his penalty area and the ball landed almost by the Leeds penalty area. Unfortunately the nearest Saints player was back near the halfway line!
Frazer Richardson - Did his job well, with little fuss. Still has the tendency to hit long balls towards no-one in particular.
José Fonte - Imperious, as always. I think we are possibly in danger of taking him for granted. Take him out of the side and our defence would undoubtably struggle.
Aaron Martin - another right footed CB, but he coped well. Looked a bit nervous and tentative to begin with, but grew in stature as the game wore on. Was exceptionally unfortunate with the penalty awarded against him.
Dan Harding - Never his biggest fan, I was impressed. Did nothing wrong and bounded forward at every opportunity.
Guly Do Prado - Was his usual enigmatic self. Offers that something different, but he has to learn that he will not have the time to dwell on the ball that he had last season. Good assist with the second goal.
Jack Cork - “Immense”,“Excellent”. Looks as if he has been playing in the team for ages. Worth every penny of whatever we paid for him and are paying him.
Dean Hammond - Very good game, capped with an excellent goal. Cork and Hammond work well together in the centre of the park.
Adam Lallana - We all know how good he is. Now the other Championship sides will know it as well, after reading the papers on Sunday. Great goal and could/should have had another.
David Connolly - Sheer quality. That third goal was a joy to watch. Can we wrap him in cotton wool between games please?
Rickie Lambert - An assist, but no goal. I so wanted him to score, but he looks fit and can clearly cut it at this level. Played deeper again, as he did in the latter part of last season and the team looks better balanced for it. Their two CB’s certainly knew he was around, so he won’t be bullied either.
Substitutes (Sorry, Impact Players)
Steve De Ridder - (for Connolly, 62 minutes) You can see that when he works out the English game he is going to be a key player. Produced initial panic in the Leeds defence. They then had to leave two defenders back to cover him.
Richard Chaplow - (for Guly, 63 minutes) Tremendous game. I am convinced he was carrying an injury for most of last season, because this was the Chaplow of old. All action and he hit the post as well. Might well have been awarded a penalty on another day when he was unceremoniously bundled over following up the ball.
Morgan Schneiderlin - (for Hammond, 75 minutes) Strangely anonymous, but effective
Nigel Adkins - Turning into a first rate manager. There will be times this season when things don’t go quite according to plan, but today was not one of those days. You could see everything he has been talking about during the preseason coming together in front of your eyes. In the past, use of the substitutes was one of his weak points. He often struggles to get the personnel, or timing right. Today he got both right. We were under pressure when he brought on De Ridder and Chaplow for Connolly and Guly. The change had an immediate effect. Suddenly it was Leeds under pressure.
Overall a great result, but don't get carried away with the moment. We were not perfect. Often we played our way into trouble by trying to overcomplicate. Better teams than them will not let us get away with some of the things we did on Saturday. We will learn and I am sure we will do well this season.
Oh, and the new kit looks great!
Crashhot 6th August 2011
Referee : Wright
Attendance : 25,860
10 Guly (Chaplow 63)
14 Hammond (Schneiderlin 75)
22 Connolly (De Ridder 62)
33 De Ridder
07 Gradel (yellow card)
08 Brown (yellow card) (Paynter 53)
15 Clayton (yellow card)
23 Snodgrass (Sam 73)
44 McCormack (Nunez 62)