The Saints Go Marching In
Sat 3rd March 2012
Southampton were unbelievably fortunate to steal the three points in a game that was so one sided the people watching on Sky would have been forgiven for thinking that it was Leeds who were leading the Championship.
This was a game where the powerful display certainly did not provide the deserved result. Leeds dominated from the start and but for some brilliant saves by keeper Kelvin Davis they could easily have scored four or more goals such was the gulf in performance.
Saints made a couple of changes with Adam Lallana being rested after picking up a groin injury at Watford. Jason Puncheon came back into the side in his place, and Frazer Richardson returned from a knock to line up at right back. Guly do Prado also returned as a substitute after overcoming illness.
Leeds flew out of the traps right from the off. They had a penalty shout in the first minute and I can only surmise it wasn't given because Jose Fonte was facing away from the ball when it hit his arm.
Slowly Saints began to get more of the ball and after 15 minutes a slow build up led to a goal. Richardson found Cork on the right and he sent in a cross which was heading back across goal perfectly by Tadanari Lee to Rickie Lambert who volleyed the ball home nearly busting the net.
Normally a goal settles the side but instead it simply seemed to turn Leeds into an even more powerful attacking unit. The chances mounted with Saints rarely able to mount an offensive of their own, and it seemed a mere matter of time before the inevitable equalizer would arrive.
The Elland Road faithful roared their team forward as they clearly appreciated the fact that the players were giving their all in the name of the cause. Davis was almost alone as Leeds continued to push forward and only some superb saves and desperate blocks by the defenders kept them at bay and at half-time we paused to draw our breath.
A pulsating game full of excitement and endeavor had seemingly barely begun when the referee stopped the action for the break. Saints made two changes for the second half with Chung Lee replaced by Guly do Prado and Jason Puncheon by skipper Dean Hammond.
The second half began in the same vein as the first with Leeds totally dominant for the most part. Saints goal led a charmed life as Leeds produced chance after chance but all to no avail. Davis and the crossbar rescuing Saints time after time.
Saints did have a spell early in the second half where they began to gain the ascendancy pushing Leeds back but it didn't last for long. Daniel Fox received an injury after 56 minutes and was replaced with Dan Harding. He was soon to feel the heat as the temperature again began to rise with Leeds getting ever closer to breaking through the Saints rear guard.
Danny Webber came on for his debut and seemed to ignite Leeds into an even more fiery force. Becchio saw Davis make a double save and Webber himself stood hands on head staring in disbelief at Davis as he made yet another brilliant save to stop him opening his account for Leeds.
As the clock ran down the time remaining Lambert managed a shot which was deflected for a corner. This gave Guly a chance but he was unable to make the best of it. At the other end with Saints defence looking as though it was starting to tire it seemed impossible for them to succeed in keeping a clean sheet.
Desperate blocking and more saves was followed by a desperate scramble before the ball was cleared to safety. Another goal mouth scramble in the Saints area late on was heroically defended by all eleven Saints players, although they might not have known too much about a header which struck the crossbar in the melee.
Three tense, nerve shredding minutes of additional time were added on., Time enough for Guly to be booked prior to Paul Connolly heading McCormack's lofted free-kick over the bar, but Saints held on, to earn a valuable win which meant they remain top of the table.
Keeper Kelvin Davis was swamped by every one of his team mates at the end as they celebrated the hardest three points that they will earn all season. Needless to say kelvin had been chosen by Sky as the man of the match.
After the game we waited to hear what Neil Warnock had to say about the game. Surprisingly after complaining about the lost penalty appeal he was grinning and overjoyed by what he had seen. His team had given him everything they had and he was immensely proud and looking forward to getting more of the same from the team.
As he said, if the team play like that every week they will win many more games and could still have a chance of making the play-offs. If they can I wouldn't want to be playing them again.
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His team may have lost but boy did he have them fired up for this game.
How we escaped with the points is impossible to say. It certainly wasn't anything to do with superb team selection.