Writer: Chris Mitchell
Date:Sunday September 23 2007
St Mary's Stadium
On a day where Southampton needed some luck, the football Gods conspired to give them none whatsoever. After a second half full of resolve, desire and spirit, Inigo Idiakez slammed the ball home in the first minute of stoppage time to give Saints hope of a win. There were five minutes remaining on the clock, and the stage was set for a snatched win in the dying seconds. That is exactly what happened, but unbelievably it was Devaney who stole the points for Barnsley after they barely threatened all game.
After a poor performance in midweek, Burley must have known that a win was vital to get the fans back on his side. The opening half an hour consisted of half chances for both teams, openings not capitalised upon to the frustration of Burley on the touchline. On 27 minutes Barnsley stunned the hosts with a wonderful free-kick from Grant McCann, who whipped his shot into the top corner.
This shock to the system seemed to provoke an improvement from the Saints, though, with Bradley Wright-Phillips striking the post from Hammill`s cross. This was followed by Saganowski`s header being cleared off the line, and the Pole was denied again when Muller saved from a narrow angle. Incredibly, it was the Tykes who scored next; McCann again finding the top corner from 25 yards out.
Things just weren`t going Saints` way, and when Hammill once again found space his curling shot beat the goalkeeper, but not the post. Eventually the pressure told just before the break when Saganowski turned in Wright-Phillip`s shot. This gave Southampton hope of a result if they upped their efforts in the second period, and they certainly did that. Stern John`s introduction made a big difference as the Trinidad striker`s movement and clever touches created space for Viafara, but he blasted over with half an hour remaining.
Surman`s performance was much improved in the centre of midfield, where he and Safri were well on top of play, and the under 21s man was inches away from an equaliser as his shot flew past the angle. Muller pulled off a great save from the youngster with 18 minutes left on the clock, just after Tykes man Werling was sent off for a second bookable offence on Viafara. The best chance had come earlier in the half, though, Hammill setting up John after a great team move, but he somehow missed from six yards.
Rasiak failed to make an impact on his introduction as Barnsley`s time-wasting tactics infuriated the home fans, but finally the goal came. In the first minute of the six in stoppage time, substitute Idiakez swept the ball home after good work from Stern John to delight St Mary`s. Everything looked set for a final raid forward, but straight from kick-off Kelvin Davis was left completely exposed and Devaney pounced on the rebound of his own shot for his header to dribble into the net.
This result has increased the pressure on George Burley to improve Southampton`s form and to move up the table, and this pressure doesn`t look like subsiding. A week ago, with the side 2-1 up at Vicarage Road, there wasn`t even an issue regarding the management at the club, but somehow less than three games later there is turmoil at St Mary`s again. This wasn`t a lacklustre display, two excellent free-kicks denied Saints a well-deserved win and a place in the top half of the league, despite a poor start. It can only be hoped that the Saints board have more common sense than a sizeable section of the support who are desperate for a change of management, which would act as another roll of the dice, another gamble, and one which has absolutely no guarantees of an improvement in fortunes. Surely the sensible option is to continue with the man who has created a good squad under serious restraints in recent months. The arrival of Christian Dailly made a big impact in the defence, and considering there are only seven games played, it would be a dreadful decision to remove Mr Burley from his position.
We must remember that this is the man who has succeeded at Hearts, Ipswich and Derby in recent years, and that the chances of finding a more suitable candidate to take up the torch with this set of players are very slim.
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Date:Sunday September 23 2007
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