Stacks Image p997886_n984467

Southampton 2

• Lambert (pen) 50
• Fonte 82

Hartlepool 0

A good day all round today. The weather was fantastic and I enjoyed my drive in to the stadium this morning through the lovely Meon Valley countryside, air conditioning in the car full on. I passed the Hartlepool team bus taking the team out to their hotel for lunch. Loads of people queuing for tickets when i arrived at the stadium at 11.45, I had got my usual buzz when I saw the stadium on the horizon and then seeing the fans milling around, even with more than 3 hours to kick off.

Just after 12.00 I met my pre match tour group which included some listees and their families. We had a good tour, several players posed for photographs and signed autographs including Alex Chamberlain who was wearing a big protective boot. Nigel Adkins also made the party welcome and posed for pics. I have said it before and I'll say it again we have a very calm and very happy dressing room with all the players and back room staff being very relaxed with the pre match visits. They are all a friendly bunch. I have the best job in football and am made to feel part of everything by the staff.

The team showed six changes from the starting line up at Brighton, proving what a good squad we have. Not many teams could make that many changes and win. The sun was scorching down at kick off and the temperature must have been very high at pitch level. It was a big crowd, basking in the sun and there was a mass of white and red all around the ground. Very few down from Hartlepool, they must have all come in a mini bus.

Saints won the toss and it was the visitors who kicked off towards the Chapel Stand. They had a good five minutes or so of possession and looked to have a nippy centre forward, small compared to Fonte and he caused a few early problems. Saints gradually got in to the game and passed the ball around and it was not long before we were giving their defence some trouble. Dan Harding was getting forward a lot and linking well with Lallana.

On the other flank Guly was causing a few problems but we were unable to get an early goal. Most of the ground thought Guly had scored after a superb link up between the revitalised Connolly and Lallana which saw the latter cross perfectly for the Brazilian to net with a good header. Sadly the flag went up for offside. I was to far away to argue - but I did! I was sure Gully was behind the ball as it was crossed. I suppose I got it wrong but suspect it was very tight.

I was disappointed to see Seaborne pick up a silly yellow card in area of the pitch where he did not need to tackle, or certainly need to go to ground with the follow through. Why do players do that?

I felt we had the better of the first half but we could not quite make our superiority pay off. Hartlepool had some breakaways but did not trouble Kelvin Davis too much. We miss the pace and directness of Alex Chamberlain, Guly does his best out wide but he is no winger . Half time came with no score, but I felt we had goals in the team and did not feel too deflated, but was conscious that there was not much in the way of impact players on the bench, only Forte perhaps and maybe N'guessan.

No changes at half time. We started a bright and there was a lot of passing around by saints, keeping possession, but not getting the killer ball through to the forwards, then at last our patience and quality paid off, a cute back heel by Guly put Lambert through on goal, he looked a cert to score but as just as he was about to pull the trigger from close in he was felled by a defender. A nailed on penalty, but I was surprised to see the defender get a straight red card, a tad harsh. Lambert never looks as though he is going to miss from the spot, and he didn't.
So a breakthrough, and a huge roar around the stadium. Eleven against ten in searing heat, and with our passing ability surely we were home and dry. It is never easy though against ten men is it? They defended in numbers and relied on breakaways. So the next goal was long time coming, in fact it was the visitors who nearly scored. A quick ball forward fell in between our defenders and they had a man clean through with only Davis to beat, but our number one stood tall and made himself big to beat away a shot that was on target. It would have been interesting if that had gone in!

Saints re grouped and got the passing going again, it was a patient but sensible approach, long balls might have given away possession, some near me got a bit impatient but I said if we have the ball they can't score.

NA made his first substitution with about twenty minutes to go, I was bit surprised that it was Guly to come off, he has the sort of close control to split open defences and having been born in Brazil and played a lot in Italy I would have thought he felt at home in the heat. Chaplow came on in his place and we went to a slightly different formation. It seemed to work as our full backs got a lot of the ball and we had most of the play.

I was sure we would get another goal, Lambert seemed to revel in the role of provider and he was passing the ball well and trying to link up play with the tireless Connolly and Lallana. The important second goal finally came wit 80 minutes on the clock. It was Lambert the provider, he had a free kick just outside the area, a little wide to the right. Most would have put money on him having a shot from where the ball was placed, the visitors thought the same, instead Rickie played a delightful chip to the far post where presumably a pre arranged signal had Jose Fonte peeling away in to acres of space to expertly head the ball back across the 'keeper in to the far corner of the goal. A perfectly executed free kick routine.

Game over. I was worried to see Fonte limping slightly and within a couple of minutes of scoring he came off to be replaced by Aaron Martin, at the same time Lallana came off to be replaced by Jono Forte. Saints saw the game out in a professional manner by retaining possession. Even with Fonte off we looked composed in the last ten minutes. Remember when we always used to look nervy hanging on to even a two goal lead towards the end of games? This team is better prepared. So the final whistle went and we had won 2-0.

Some might think we should have walked this game, not me, for some it was their second game in three days, and Lalanna had played 45 minutes on Saturday. There is pressure on the players too, a lot is at stake, so I have no complaints.

Fonte and Lalanna were a class apart, I am sure they just wind Adam up with a key and send him out. He never stops running, not even in the heat today. What a player? Otherwise everyone played their part, none more so than KD with that great save. He did not have a lot to do but was was alert when called upon, Connolly too showed his class although he missed a sitter by his standards. Dan Harding had a good game, showed no sign of his injury and did a lot of running off the ball out wide. A lot of people get impatient with Guly but I just love his skill at times. Pity we cant find a free role for him to pop up wherever he likes, i am not sure he is disciplined enough to hold down the the role out right. No player had a poor game, some not as good as others but all contributed to the result.

I will sleep well tonight, it has been a long day but worth every minute of it.



Monday, 25 April 2011
Ref: Hooper

01 Davis
02 Richardson
03 Harding
06 Fonte (Martin 84)
19 Seaborne - yellow card
11 Guly (Chaplow 69)
14 Hammond
20 Lallana (Forte 84)
33 Stephens
07 Lambert
22 Connolly

24 Bialkowski
05 Dickson
12 Butterfield
17 Martin
30 Chaplow
08 Forte
32 N'Guessan

01 Flinders
05 Collins - two yellow cards, red card
06 Horwood
16 Haslam - yellow card
29 Hartley
03 Humphreys (Mackay 53)
04 Liddle
08 Gamble
11 Monkhouse
12 Yantorno (McSweeney 52)
15 Sweeney

21 Rafferty
02 Austin
07 McSweeney
09 Behan
10 Boyd
18 Mackay
23 Larkin