The clouds were grey, flecks of blue streaked around the sky, the wind swirled around St Mary’s Stadium, but it wasn’t until 2.45pm that the sun finally broke through. My first ever visit to this ground, but momentous for the fact that it completed the set of all 92 Premier/Football League grounds for me, hence my wish to volunteer for writing this report.
Marco Silva decided continuity was the key and so no changes to the starting line up were made to the side that started against the Hornets last Saturday, the red card for Niasse rightfully being rescinded to keep the momentum going. Baffling that Mr Madley’s performance last week should earn him the Crystal Palace v Burnley battle later on….and yet more controversy!
Elmohamady Ranocchia Maguire Robertson
Markovic N’Diaye Goebel Clucas Grosicki
Marshall Dawson Huddlestone Hernandez Henriksen Bowen Maloney
The first few minutes set the trend for most of the game and it was a joy to see as the relegation battlers took the game to Southampton. As early as the fourth minute, Niasse chased down a backpass to Forster leading to a hurried clearance, fed to Markovic, a free kick being drawn 25 yards out which Grosicki bent superbly over the wall leaving Forster admiring it, but the ball cannoned off the post. Very unlucky.
Our football at times was slick, fast, accurate, defence to attack, spreading play. It was a joy to watch. How is it we struggle for consistency away from home? The answer almost came when a moment’s lapse in concentration saw a ball played behind Ranocchia and Gabbiadini had a clear site of goal but screwed the ball embarrassingly wide when faced with Jakupovic.
Our first half performance was excellent, apart from being level at 0-0. The chief reason for that was the willingness for every player to battle and lay their bodies on the line and, with reference to Andy Dalton’s superb report from last week, having the class act on our team in Evandro Goebel. His performance in the first half was a masterclass of midfield supremacy. His calm control, clever movement and timing was exquisite to watch.
My one concern was that 0-0 scoreline because this season away from home has seen so many errors that have cost goals that the net normally needed to bulge at the other end for something to hold on to. Added to which, surely Southampton would come out with more purpose having been booed off by their own supporters.
The second half saw Southampton forcing us back more and a few hearts started pumping faster when Shane Long was introduced for the Saints after an hour. Not another former player to haunt us? Memories of Stoke two weeks ago flooded back when Crouch and Walters came on and changed the game.
We were made of sterner stuff today and Long never had a sniff, thanks yet again to the imperious Sir Harry. When will Mr Southgate finally recognise his talent? Only if/when he leaves the club? Like Livermore.
Anyway, the half meanders along. We’re comfortable, apart from a dodgy punch from the Jak, which he redeemed himself by saving the follow up shot. Substitutions are made. Henriksen for the excellent aforementioned Goebel (71 mins) and Huddlestone for Grosicki (82 mins). That substitution must have been interesting as the 4th official was Paul Tierney, who’d sent Huddlestone off only four weeks earlier! The final substitution was going to be Hernandez for Niasse. However, Clucas went down injured and after treatment, it was decided Dawson should appear instead, for Markovic.
Enter Mike Dean, a referee I can’t say I rate highly, or even lowly for that matter! He always seems to want the limelight. I have to say that today his performance had actually been very good, though it was a quite sociable game, with no nasty tackles. A shirt pull it seemed, against N’Diaye led to a penalty award for Southampton, with 90 minutes up and injury time being played. From our end it was hard to tell. Paul Clement must have been punching the air in delight. Step up Dusan Tadic, not Shane Long, thank goodness. A low shot towards the Jak’s left post, but our hero gets a strong left hand to it and puts it past the post. Pandemonium at our end and on the pitch. The corner comes to nothing, we break and win a corner ourselves. It’s played across, flicked on and Niasse, despite HIS shirt being held, has a stab at the ball but it is headed off the line. Mike Dean didn’t notice that though. Cue the final whistle and maybe a few thousand Welsh voices being muffled ahead of Swansea’s trip to Old Trafford tomorrow.
Overall, a great away performance, the team ethic and mindset perfect. Was this the day Hull City finally put the nail in Swansea’s coffin? We’ll know soon enough.
Final word is for our unassuming hero Eldin Jakupovic. He hasn’t had the greatest career at Hull City but has never moaned. He’s got on with his task of being substitute often enough and also being loaned out. Everyone remembers thec alamity against Sheffield Wednesday not many seasons ago and not all have forgiven him. He has had his good moments too, like last season keeping Arsenal at bay at the Emirates with a record breaking eleven saves there in a 0-0 draw in the FA Cup. However, under Marco Silva he is now our recognised No.1 keeper and he deserves all the plaudits he’s getting, even the recent transfer speculation, which shows he’s being noticed elsewhere too. I’m really pleased his perseverance has paid off and with Hull City and the penalty save today will lay the ghost of Sheffield Wednesday to rest, especially if Hull City do finally stay in the Premier League