Southampton 1 Hull City 1

No great shakes for a recently relegated side, Southampton ooze no Premiership class whatsoever and yield a point to the Tigers thanks to Kevin Ellison heavy left boot.

Kevin Ellison!

I was just checking back through my archive of match reports to discover what I’ve said about him so far this season. “Young Ellison looks very short odds to take every Player of the Season award going”. “Already looking too good for this Division, it can only be a matter of time – and not much of it – until Ellison steps up to Premiership level”. “The outstanding player once again was Kevin Ellison, he must start, every game, no excuses”. Yes, all these things have not been said by me so far this season.

Try this one on for size.

“Ellison grabbed possession wide on the left, hurtled past his startled full-back in a pounding, muscular run, slicing deep into the home team’s penalty box before blazing a gloriously unselfconsciousness shot across the terrified Niemi, sending the far side-netting billowing outwards and the travelling City support into delirious raptures”.

Kev! You da man! That’s birdie golf!

He did all this in the 79th minute of a game we looked likely to lose, but from which we extracted a hard-earned point. There is something old-fashioned about Ellison’s play. Head down, honest endeavour. Is he good enough? Well, if he can explode like this every now and then he’s worth his place in the squad, especially given the worrying lack of attacking dynamism elsewhere in our ranks.

Ultimately able to enjoy a beautiful sunny afternoon by the Solent:

Lynch Cort Delaney Dawson
France Welsh Curtis Barmby
Brown Fagan

And what a rotten first half it was. If we’d expected Southampton (coached by Sir Clive Woodward) to cause us the alarms that fellow Premiership exiles Norwich had a short while ago, then we’d called it quite wrong. The home side looked no better than most of the teams we’ve faced this season – and no better than us. This surprised me because, as I may have already mentioned, they are coached by Sir Clive Woodward. He is a master tactician, an outstanding man-manager and, I believe, a motivational guru in demand as a speaker at Rotary Club lunches all over Hampshire and even across the Sussex border. Southampton, a humble club whose natural home is on a par with Waterlooville, have performed mightily in bringing Lord Woodward in to take the reins. I for one wish him well and, indeed, if Captain Marvel, Bryan Robson, is not to take over at the England helm after Sven’s departure, then I cannot imagine a stronger candidate than Sir Cliveford Woodberry. In fact, do I hear a dream ticket?

In the meantime it was hot, the sun dazzled the well-populated corner allocated to the travelling Tigs, and the football was dire and uncompetitive. A Fagan cross was met weakly by Brown, whose header drifted well wide. On 22 one of theirs hared in from the left, squared it but another of theirs smacked the ball comfortably too high. On 30 the lively Fagan sets up France but he shoots over. And as half-time approaches and neither keeper has been asked to get their gloves dirty City looked quietly satisfied while the Saints are dismally listless and leaderless.

It’s a trap! You’ve got to be on your toes when you’re playing a side coached by Sir Clivestone Woodsnoring, and we just weren’t. A corner is headed out to one Oakley, loitering fully 25 yards out from our goal and, without even needing to set the ball on one of those funny little plastic tees, he smashes it with his left foot into the back of our net. Boaz, I suppose, was initially unsighted. Fine strike though.

That left us a couple of minutes to play up until the half-time whistle and we used them to look a good deal menacing than we had at any time hitherto. Fagan finds space, his effort is blocked for a corner; a header from France, a save, a second corner, but this is struck too long and we arrive at the break a goal down.

I was unimpressed by the St Mary’s Stadium. It’s big, it’s modestly imposing, but it’s unimaginative. Uniform, dull, none of the elegance of the Circle or the quirky grandeur of Coventry’s new home. It seems to me that the architectural choices peer in the wrong direction for inspiration. It’s just too footbally. If they had sought a home modelled on, for example, Neath’s marvellously intimate Gnoll I feel Saints would have been much better off and could surely have boasted a ground packed to the rafters week in, week out.

Into the second half, and we are quickly on the back foot. Southampton (coached by Sir Clive Woodward) take the majority of possession and press forward, but are peculiarly unwilling to test us deep inside the penalty box. Maybe they’re short of confidence, maybe they reckon themselves just too cool to do grubby things like whip crosses in and test our defence, maybe they’re just a ramshackle bunch of foreigners content to pick up decent money for a feckless shift. Obviously it cannot be that their club is a complete shambles, with a manager wholly undermined by a clot of a Chairman who is handing out wages to some dope of a rugby bore whose reputation was last seen heading south down an unusually stinky New Zealand toilet.

Boaz saves brilliantly from Fuller – though it turns out he was offside anyway. On the hour another excellent moment from our fast-improving goalkeeper as he saves from a powerful header and then watches as the loose ball bounces off the bar before being criminally turned wide of the post by Lundekvam, only three or so yards out. So’ton give every impression of not wanting to kill this game off. They’re a weird bunch. Plenty of languid skill. A dire lack of leadership and determination. Swanning around like you’re too good for it will not get you out of this Division, even if it might pink the gins down at the Stoop.

On 63 Burgess and Ellison came on, replacing Brown and Barmby, and shortly afterwards we enjoyed our first serious moment of attacking flair of the second half as France surged powerfully forward before sliding a right-foot shot just wide of the post. Curtis comes off for Green, and we’re hunting a frankly improbable equaliser. But it arrives. As above, courtesy of the extraordinarily doughty Ellison.

Overall we weren’t very good yesterday, by the way. Hanging on grimly defensively. Hanging on grimly all over the pitch, come to that. But: a late equaliser a long way from home on a lovely sunny day against flabby oppositon that deserved to be punished. “It’ll do” isn’t the half of it. It’s tremendous!

Southampton (coached by Sir Clive Woodward) have eleven minutes, plus the added three, to regain the lead but though they create an alarm or two in Boaz’s vicinity they still look uncommitted and flaky to me. This was the fourth away game we’ve played against the teams that led the betting market at the start of this season and only our first point – but on this evidence So’ton, despite the reassurng presence of Sir Clivebaldy Woodpants, should finish well adrift of Wolves, Palace and, most of all, Norwich. Perhaps the Saints need a new coach.

HULL CITY (4-4-2): Myhill; Lynch, Cort, Delaney, Dawson; France, Welsh, Woodhouse, Barmby; Brown, Fagan. Subs: Burgess (for Barmby, 63), Ellison (for Brown, 63), Green (for Woodhouse, 77), Joseph, Duke.

Goals: Ellison 79

Booked: Brown

Sent Off: None


SOUTHAMPTON: Niemi, Hajto, Lundekvam, Svensson, Higginbotham, Oakley, Belmadi, Quashie, Kosowski, Ormerod, Fuller. Subs: Walcott (for Kosowski, 76), Blackstock (for Fuller, 88), Smith, Cranie, Delap.

Goals: Oakley 44

Booked: Belmadi, Hajto

Sent Off: None