Here is Bazza’s take on yesterday’s game.
I wasn’t originally going to go to this game but as fate would have it, the day that I had planned didn’t work out and so having taken my little dog for a walk I decided to jump on the train from Farnborough to Southampton and pick up the ticket at the ground. I left my home in Surrey with the sun shining bright and the sky blue to more overcast conditions when I got my destination. I started to walk the mile or so to St Mary’s Stadium and as I got to the top of the hill by the station, the heavens opened. The rain that fell was absolutely torrential and with no shelter within 100 yards I got absolutely drenched. This was not a good start in the afternoon. I got under one of the underpasses in the hope that the rain would relent a little but in the end decided that it wasn’t going to and so therefore to press on. I was wet through already and there was little point as I saw it in avoiding further irrigation from the heavens. By the time I got to the ground I was feeling pretty miserable especially as I then had to fork out £29 for a ticket which for Championship football was a little on the steep side especially in these rather austere times.
I got into the ground and purchased a steak and kidney pie and a bottle of beer and started to feel a little better. The last time I went to a game at Southampton I bought a pie that had two pieces of material masquerading as chicken swimming around in volcanically hot gloop made up of monosodium glutamate and corn flour and was quite the most revolting I had ever experienced. However, the steak pie I purchased this time was well baked, hot and contained a tasty filling with plenty of meat and gravy. Satiated, I found my seat and sat next to Rob whom I had just met in the wet and bedraggled queue outside at the ticket office. I discovered that like me he lived in the south of England, in his case, Winchester and was a regular visitor to St Mary’s. He pointed out where he usually sat in the home support but of course said that when the team of his childhood came to town it was different.
The teams came out onto the pitch with a continuing downpour. Myhill was in goal and the back four was restored to Carr, Davies, Caldwell and Ridgewell. Gomis returned in midfield from injury alongside Spector with Beausejour and Chris Burke in the wide positions. Chris Wood and Marlon King were selected up front. This looked a good, solid, attacking line-up and I was confident. The game got off to a very lively start with the wet slick pitch making for fast passing and flowing football. Blues gained a free kick 25 yards out after only about 5 minutes and Wood’s powerful shot was deflected and looked for all the world to be heading into the bottom corner from our end of the field. The 821 fans that made the trip were on their feet including me convinced that we had scored only to have celebrations dashed as it became clear that the ball was in the arms of the keeper.
Blues appeared to be getting on top but a foray forward by the home side led to a shot which skewed wide and which Myhill collected to take a goal kick. I looked at the linesman who was in turn looking at the referee and it was clear that neither of them were sure whether the ball had taken a deflection. In this instance the benefit of the doubt should always go to the defending side however these two officials broke with tradition and gave a corner instead. One has to accept that such mistakes are made but the decision having been given, it still behoves upon the defenders to defend properly. The ball came over and Caldwell finding himself on the wrong side of Rickie Lambert proceeded to clatter into the back of him and give away the clearest of penalties. The Blues centre half then compounded things by getting himself a needless booking by protesting and trying to justify the unjustifiable. The decision was absolutely correct and Lambert stepped up and scored. I will say however that the Southampton player was very lucky as the ball slammed off the inside the post and across the goal into the opposite corner rather than rebounding off the woodwork to safety. He certainly didn’t place it there and just went for power.
Blues rapidly appeared to regain composure and started stroking the ball around nicely. However, just like on Thursday, careless passes kept allowing Southampton possession and this young, mobile, pacy, talented Saints team were ruthless in exploiting any such shortcomings. Ridgewell was having a particularly torrid time and was not coping well with the speed and movement of Frazer Richardson who was tying him in knots. Southampton were getting behind us far too easily and with Ridgewell ball watching and the failure of others to track runners a cross from Richardson was converted by Guly do Prado at the near post. This was on 20 minutes and we were already 2-0 down. Once again Blues appeared to have recovered from these setbacks only for an identical move when a simple pass inside the hapless Ridgewell once again to Frazer Richardson was this time converted by Adam Lallana on 35 minutes.
The first half and turned into an unmitigated disaster. The defending can only be described as lamentable particularly from our left back but Caldwell Davies and Carr had not exactly covered themselves in glory either. In contrast, the midfield had played reasonably well but I thought that some of the play became somewhat ponderous once the ball had been worked into useful positions and there were a number of occasions when the forwards started to make runs only for the pass not to come early enough.
I was by now wet through, cold and fed up and half-time at least gave me the opportunity to go and get a hot drink. Blues started the second half in a very sprightly fashion again but this time they were rewarded from a similar free kick to the one in the first half with a goal. The ball was touched to Chris Wood who slammed the ball under the wall past Kelvin Davis in the Southampton goal. With only two minutes gone of the second period there was hope of an unlikely comeback especially when both Chris Wood and Ridgewell headed narrowly over during a series of corners. Even Stephen Carr got in the act powering forward and letting fly from 30 yards only to see the ball cannon off the same post that the fortunate Lambert had struck with his penalty earlier. The rebound came too quickly to Beausejour who was unable to convert the chance and the ball looped up wide to the anguished groans of the away support.
Marlon King was incredibly unlucky to see his goal bound shot chested off the line by defender and Wood had another shot well saved by Davis. Blues remained on top for nearly the whole of the second period only for Chaplow an earlier, substitute for the Saints to add a fourth goal against the run of play for the home side from one of the few incisive moves that the hosts created in the second half. Nevertheless, the move, excellent though it was, was created far too easily through a gaping hole in the centre of the Birmingham defence and Chaplow made no mistake. The final score line of 4-1 was somewhat harsh on Birmingham who deserved at least a further one or two goals of their own for the excellent play that they exhibited in the second half. Despite this heavy defeat the away supporters applauded the team off the pitch at the end. The team never gave up and continued going forward in search of another goal even when the day was lost; there was no loss of character out on the pitch today despite such a heavy defeat.
It seems very strange to report that the teams performance was overall very good indeed especially in the second half following what appears to the neutral observer a real thumping. Southampton deserved their victory, of that there can be little doubt but the margin of it is somewhat flattering when you consider that they rode their luck in the second half and could have conceded at least three goals if not more had Blues enjoyed a little more fortune in front of goal. The game was lost by half-time and despite the overall good showing by the team we simply cannot defend in this manner and expect to get anything at all out of our away trips. We have conceded bad goals at Derby, Watford and now Southampton because of appalling defending and any good work that is done is rapidly negated by such profligacy. I have stated before that I have misgivings about our defenders and this has only reinforced my view.
I have spoken to fellow supporters who feel that the team is still to gel properly; I accept that Myhill is getting better and was blameless today but there is a considerable amount of work to do in the defensive department of the team. We allow teams far too much space and time to play the ball around in the vicinity of the edge of our penalty area. We have to close down players quicker than we are doing and basic tracking and marking needs to be addressed and fundamental mistakes eliminated. We seem able to do this at St Andrews and this must translate to our away form if we are to have any chance at all of taking anything worthwhile from our league campaign this year.
The Good: Excellent second half performance. We created enough chances to have been level by 65 minutes perverse though that sounds. The treatment that we received from the stewards and the catering was very good. The visit to St Mary’s was a good experience apart from the result of course.
The Bad: Our defending. The game was a lost cause by 35 minutes.
The Ugly: The weather; the downpour that came over before and during the fist half was monsoon like. At least it had stopped by the time it was time to go home.
Southampton: Kelvin Davis 7, Frazer Richardson 8, Jose Fonte 7, Daniel Fox 7, Jos Hooiveld 7, Guly Do Prado 8 (Richard Chaplow 72, 8), Dean Hammond (C) 7, Jack Cork 7, (Morgan Schneiderlin 82, N/A), Adam Lallana 9 (Steve De Ridder 83, N/A), David Connolly 7, Rickie Lambert 8.
Subs not used: Bartosz Bialkowski, Aaron Martin.
Goals: Lambert (pen 11), Do Prado (21), Lallana (34), Chaplow (78).
Blues: Boaz Myhill 6, Liam Ridgewell 4, Steven Caldwell 5, Curtis Davies 6, Stephen Carr 6, Jean Beausejour 7, Morgaro Gomis 8, Jonathan Spector 7 (Wade Elliott 74, 6), Chris Burke 8, Marlon King 8 (Adam Rooney 74, 6), Chris Wood 8.
Subs not used: Colin Doyle, David Murphy, Nathan Redmond.
Bookings: Caldwell (10), Spector (14), Carr (81).
Goals: Wood (49)
Attendance: 22, 155 (821 Blues fans)
Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northants) 8: The referee and his assistants were competent throughout and there was nothing I could think of that was truly contentious.