Woeful Wa'Saint the Word at St Marys!
St Mary's Stadium
Saturday 11th February 2012 @3pm Kick-Off
Attendance: 24,099 (1040 Clarets)
Burnley were simply outclassed at St Marys on Saturday after losing 2-0 to a rampant Southampton team. The Saints, struggling in recent weeks decided to find their form again and it was soon clear why they were running away with the Championship in the earlier part of the season.
It is not easy to decide whether the Saints simply blew us away or whether we only had ourselves to blame after looking ineffective in all departments for most of the game. But for a 20 minute spell in the second-half the Clarets were second-best and under the cosh .To be honest the team struggled to get out of first gear all afternoon. In the first half we were simply shocking and we have to thank Lee Grant for literally keeping us in the game during the first 45 minutes. Southampton got their noses in front as early as the 8th minute after Lallana gave them the lead and they never looked back from that point onwards. Some match reports in the media have credited Saints home debutant striker, Billy Sharp with the second goal in the 33rd minute but the ball clearly took a final touch from Ben Mee on its way into the back of the net for an own goal. The last twelve minutes of the first half was clear purgatory for the Burnley defence and but for Lee Grant pulling off some fine saves, the mountain would have been even higher to climb in the second half.
Eddie Howe clearly had to do something for the start of the second-half and he made two substitutions to try and liven up our chances of still getting something from this game. Keith Treacy had been totally ineffective in the first-half and was replaced by Josh McQuoid. Dean Marney too had struggled so on came Bartley to try and bolster our flagging midfield.
For a time, the plan nearly worked and we looked much more assured in the opening 20 minute spell of the second half. Had we managed to get a goal back, the outcome may have been different but Southampton weathered the mini-storm and began to reassert their authority and dominance again. By the end of the game the match statistics spoke for themselves. Southampton had enjoyed the lion`s share of possession by 57% to 43%, had clocked up 13 corners to our four and managed seven shots on target compared to just two for the Clarets. A match indeed to forget! You could say perhaps there was no shame losing to a team looking increasing likely to be one of the teams automatically promoted by the end of the season. It was perhaps unfortunate that we faced them on the day they decided to consign their recent poor form to the dustbin and play with real class. The problem though is that the Clarets gave them this result on a plate and basically had little to offer and it is perhaps that fact alone that is the most disappointing.
A disappointing result yes but for all sorts of reasons we can still feel comforted when you consider how far we have come since that eventful match at the KC Stadium back in November. Back then Southampton were unstoppable and Burnley at 2-0 down against Hull City were within 15 minutes of dropping into the bottom three. At that point we were an astonishing 21 points behind the Saints but coming back to beat Hull 3-2 that day kick started our season. If we had somehow managed to defeat Southampton yesterday that lead would now just be eight points but sadly we shall have to settle for 11!
So where does this defeat leave us in the league now? Surprisingly we remain in 11th spot but we are now five points behind sixth placed club, Hull City and the Tigers also have a game in hand. You just sense our chances of a play-offs spot could be slipping away now unless somehow we can go on a run. In particular we need to improve our home form starting against Barnsley who travel to Turf Moor on Tuesday night. We continually seem to be about 3-4 points off the chase and every time we have the perfect chance to move into the top six, our home form seems to let us down. Burnley play four of the next six games at Turf Moor so if we are to become serious candidates for a promotion push it is vital we do not drop any more points on home soil.
We now have 16 games left to turn our fortunes around this season. We should know by the end of March whether we still stand any chance of reaching the play offs. March is certainly a busy month for the Clarets; we play seven games with only three at Turf Moor. We also play three of the top four clubs fighting for automatic promotion. League leaders, West Ham and high-flying 3rd placed Birmingham are at Turf Moor in March and we also face a tricky game away to 4th placed Cardiff City.
Come on you Clarets let`s do this for Barry and avoid the recriminations likely to ensue if we fail to reach the Promised Land.
Eddie Howe made just one change to the sixteen selected for the previous game at home to Posh a week last Saturday. Keith Treacy was given a starting eleven place with Josh McQuoid dropping back to the bench
We therefore lined up as follows:
Grant , Trippier , Duff, Edgar , Mee , Wallace , McCann , Marney , Treacy , Rodriguez , Austin
Substitutes: Jensen, Easton, Bartley, McQuoid, Hines
Although nominally a 4-4-2 formation we actually lined up 4-4-1-1 with Rodriguez playing off Austin.
Full Match Report
St Mary`s may be a relatively new stadium, built with the Premier League in mind but it was still surprising to learn that the facility does not have undersoil heating! It was that fact alone that caused mild panic before this game, with rumours circulating that the cold, freezing weather may well have led to a match postponement due to a frozen pitch. That certainly would not have been good news for the 1040 Clarets already making the long journey to Hampshire but they need not have worried with the rumours proving unfounded. It turns out apparently that there was an unofficial pitch inspection in the morning but that there was never really any doubt that the match would not go ahead! Indeed it was actually sunny in Southampton by the time the game kicked off although of course the temperature remained cold.
Nevertheless it was with some relief that Berkshire referee, Trevor Kettle finally got the game underway. The pitch though was quite firm especially on one side where it was in the shade. The sun was trying its best to warm things up but the cold conditions would prevail especially in the second half. Southampton may have spent more money on players this season and appear more ambitious, but at least Burnley have undersoil heating!
Burnley had decided to play in their all lemon chrome away kit rather than sport Claret shorts hoping it would prove as successful as their last two outings. Sadly it wouldn`t but at least it blended in well with the sunny conditions!
The Saints decided to line-up 4-4-2 and opted not to include a goalkeeper on the bench. Former Clarets, Danny Fox and Jack Cork were both in their starting line-up but there was no place in the sixteen for Richard Chaplow who had recently returned from injury. Southampton had not beaten the Clarets on home soil since 1977 in a game of course played at their old ground, The Dell. Our last three visits to St Mary`s had produced five points with one win and two draws so things were looking promising. Charlie Austin too had a habit of scoring against the Saints having found the back of the net in the last four games against them. His last of course was in the 1-1 draw this season in the reverse fixture at Turf Moor! So could he do it again and would the jinx continue for the home said? Again sadly not!
The game started brightly enough for the Clarets and things looked pretty even for a time but we were soon knocked out of our stride after falling behind in the 8th minute.
Kieran Trippier had already denied Billy Sharp opening his account on his home debut after the former Doncaster Rovers striker had latched onto a sublime pass from former Clarets loan midfielder, Jack Cork. Trippier`s superb defending saved the day but two minutes later Southampton took the lead. Frazer Richardson floated over the perfect cross for Lallana to head home.
It was nearly 2-0 soon after when another former Claret, Danny Fox beat Trippier and pulled the ball back to find Saints hotshot and leading goal scorer, Rickie Lambert. Grant though made the first of many good saves to deny the former Bristol Rovers striker. The resulting corner nearly led to a goal as well, but this time Dean Marney was on the line to head away another attempt by Lambert.
Burnley were now under the cosh and simply had no answer to the onslaught. They were struggling in all departments and seemed to be firmly encamped in their own half. The Saints were giving Trippier a torrid time down the flank and time-and-time again they poured forward on the attack. The Clarets looked stretched with all Burnley fans doubtful they could weather the storm. In contrast, we seemed to lack any sort of attacking force with Treacy down one flank looking completely isolated.
It was a remarkable 24 minutes before Burnley could mount an attack of their own. Treacy got in a long-range volley but to be honest it never really troubled the Saints keeper, Kelvin Davies. For a time, it seemed to lift the Clarets though out of their lethargy but the Saints soon began to dominate play again and they gave Burnley a mountain to climb after doubling their lead in the 33rd minute,.
Billy Sharp was looking impressive up front playing alongside Rickie Lambert and the two linked up again with Sharp latching on to a Lambert assist. Ben Mee had spotted the danger and had charged over to try and block the attempt. The unfortunate defender though could only divert the ball past Grant into his own net.
Southampton had been unbeaten at home until the turn of the year but had gone on a run of poor form with no win in four games at St Mary`s before the Burnley clash. Annoyingly for Clarets fans, there was no evidence of the poor home form now, with Southampton having regained all the confidence they needed and now quite clearly totally in command.
Five minutes before the break though, Burnley thought their luck might have changed when Rodriguez appeared to have been pulled back by Jos Hooiveld in the penalty area. The referee though had other ideas and instead decided to penalise Jay Rod and award a free-kick. The decision clearly annoyed Eddie Howe but there was little we could do about it and in the end we had to be content going into the dressing room 2-0 down at half-time being grateful it wasn`t more.
In all honesty we had been put to the sword by Southampton in the first half and they were simply too hot to handle. But for some superb saves by Lee Grant, the damage could have been even worse and it might have already been game over. At 2-0 down though there is always a chance of coming back if you can just pull a goal back and that must surely have been at the back of Eddie Howe`s mind as he pondered what to do in the second-half.
Clearly something had to be done though to freshen up our approach and Howe was on the case immediately deciding to make two substitutions for the start of the second half. Josh McQuoid and Marvin Bartley were given the task of trying to rescue something from a game that already looked to be slipping away. Hopefully they would be livelier and more effective than Treacy and Marney who they replaced.
It seemed to work for a time when at long last we had a sustained spell of pressure and began to give Southampton something to think about. We looked a lot sharper now playing 4-4-2. Trippier also began to put together some attacking moves down the flank at long last. He was now getting further forward after defending deep for most of the first half. Although the ball was now being delivered more often into the Saints box, no real chances came from the pressure and eventually it all fizzled out as Southampton once more began to take control. They had simply been happy to lay back and soak up the pressure allowing the Clarets to come at them hoping to catch them out on the break.
We simply had picked the wrong day to play the Saints on their home soil! They were a class act to be honest and we had no answers.
For a time though the game was quite open but once again the Saints began to assert their authority with Jack Cork in particular leading the charge for Southampton on the break. McQuoid had come the closest for the Clarets but he was unable to poke the ball past Davies who had had very little to do all afternoon.
With 25 minutes to go, Southampton had two more clear chances to increase their lead and kill the game off. McQuoid made a hash of a pass to let in Lambert who linking well with Cork set up Lallana. His shot from short range though hit Grant and the danger passed. Cork and Lambert then combined well again giving substitute, David Connolly a chance to score from his first touch. Thankfully though, he steered his effort just wide of target.
Connolly was already celebrating when with his second touch the ball flew into the back of the net! The celebration was premature though with the linesman flagging for offside so the score remained at 2-0. It was left to Grant to save the day again after the luckless Connolly once again failed to get on the score sheet after latching onto a failed effort by Lambert. This time Grant managed to scramble the ball away.
That was it really and after a sloppy and disjointed performance by the Clarets we deserved nothing more than to come away from St Mary`s pointless having been taught a lesson by a team in superb form and looking ever so much an automatic promotion certainty.
The Post-Match Eddie-Torial
'This was always going to be one of the toughest examinations of the season, but I don't felt we performed today to our usual standard," Howe confessed after the game.
'The first half was as poor as we've been for a long time and that was just so uncharacteristic of us. I thought we did better in the second half, but Southampton were just too strong for us on the day and sometimes you have to give credit to the opposition.
'I know they have spent a lot of money, but they have bought well and they are a strong team. That's probably as strong as they have been all season with players coming back from injury, so we knew it was going to be probably our toughest game of the season.'
"We made changes at half time because I wanted to freshen things up. I wasn't happy because we lacked energy and we lacked spark. We couldn't get to grips with them or win any second balls.
'We improved for 20 minutes and we were well on top. If we could have got a goal then it could have been interesting, but it didn't come and we have to look at ourselves and ask if we could have done better.
'The two goals were disappointing and neither phases of our play, attacking or defending, were right today. I felt only maybe Lee Grant, who played well, and Marvin came out with any real credit.'
'It's the end of a good run, so we have to start another one now. We have to win our home games now because all possibilities are still open to us.
'We are still in a tight group chasing that top six, so I don't think we should get too down on this one result. We'll just take it in isolation and look to bounce back.'
Southampton: Davis, Richardson, Fonte, Fox, Hooiveld, Schneiderlin, Cork, Guly (Hammond 78), Lallana, Lambert (Lee 90+3), Sharp (Connolly 64)
Subs Not Used: Martin, Puncheon
Goals: Lallana 8, Mee og 33,
Burnley: Grant, Trippier, Duff, Edgar, Mee (Hines 74), Wallace, McCann, Marney (Bartley ht), Treacy (McQuoid ht), Rodriguez, Austin
Subs Not Used: Jensen, Easton
Possession: 57% Southampton, 43% Burnley (Source: BBC Sport)
Ref: Trevor Kettle (Berkshire)
So now we have to look at our defence for any sort of award and they too were not exactly outstanding. Kieran Trippier looked a little off-form and was tested for most of the game down that flank with Ben Mee on the opposite flank also at times struggling. The centre of defence looked pretty solid with Duff in particular putting in a good shift. At times Edgar also looked effective but he did make the odd mistake allowing the Saints to pounce.
Lee Grant was in top form especially in the first-half and kept the score down and Burnley in the game with some fine saves in the first 45 minutes. He did little wrong in the second half except for one nervy moment when one of his trademark parries went horribly wrong. On balance then Grant picks up our Star Player award.