The Tuckster reviews the home game against Southampton, played out in a snow storm…
Just three seasons ago, this fixture was being played out in League One, today both sides faced each other back in the Premier League.
Much has been made recently of Chris Hughton`s perceived defensive nature, after opting for a 4-5-1 for much of the season the manager decided to play a more attacking 4-4-2 with new cult hero Kei Kamara partnering Grant Holt in attack.
There are several words you could use to describe this match, unspectacular, uninspiring, poor, boring?the list is long.
City found themselves struggling to contain a Saints side that opted for the same 4-5-1 formation that so many have moaned about recently.
This meant that the visitors always out numbered City in the middle of the park. Johnson and Howson had a tough afternoon and Howson in particular never really got into the game at all. His first touch was often poor and his distribution was also below par. But as I say, it was tough in the middle for the midfield pair.
Throughout the game, Southampton had the better of things and it was Mark Bunn that was the much busier ‘keeper.
He had to be on his guard to tip over from Ramirez early on and again when his rush from goal looked unwise. As Ramirez chipped the ball, attempting to lift it over Bunn, the City man`s fingertips kept it out and it was cleared.
Anthony Pilkington pulled up with what looked like it may have been a hamstring strain on 35 minutes – he was certainly holding the back of his thigh before going down and was replaced by Wes Hoolahan.
Robert Snodgrass tested Boruc with a decent free kick before half time but the Saints` ‘keeper was equal to it. He was also lucky, a short time later, not to be facing a penalty as Luke Shaw blatantly pulled Holt back as he stretched for the ball.
It was a stone wall shout when compared to the spot kick that Boruc would eventually face.
The score was 0-0 at half time and by now the rain had turned to snow. It should be noted that the weather was appalling, so much rain had fallen that the pitch was not far from being water logged by the end. This obviously affected both sides equally but didn`t help the spectacle.
The second half again saw the Saints` players be the more effective. Chances fell to Lambert and Rodriguez that were all dealt with by Bunn. The best chance though, fell to Lallana who hit a first time shot over the bar from 10 yards with the goal gaping and Bunn nowhere after a save -a shocking miss that let City off the hook yet again.
At the River End, City`s best chance fell to Snodgrass who was played through by Wes Hoolahan to be one on one with Boruc.
He tried to go round the Saints` ‘keeper but delayed and the chance was cleared. He should`ve had a shot.
A couple of low crosses came across the front of the Saints` goal but neither Holt nor Kamara could get on the end of them.
Talking of kamara, he did okay here. I`m guessing he`s not fully match fit yet as he was replaced by Becchio on 75 minutes. But the big man won plenty of headers and his link up play was intelligent. My mate at work who suggested last week that Kamara is out of his depth is wrong.
The game`s big talking point came in injury time when a long ball from Garrido found it`s way towards Holt on the corner of the area. He had Luke Shaw for company and when he felt the merest hint of contact he went down _ I’ll go so far as to say it was a dive.
It was in the area (just) and I wondered what would happen next. It meant Mark Clattenburg had a big decision to make – he pointed to the spot.
It all kicked off then as the Saints` players surrounded him and he got jostled about a bit. Puncheon got a yellow card as Holt quietly walked away and picked up the ball.
For some reason I didn`t have a good feeling about the kick and my worst fears were realised when Boruc dived to his right to palm the ball out to safety.
Holt hit it well enough but it was at a nice height and too close to the ‘keeper. If he dives the wrong way, Holt scores and is the hero, but he didn`t. This is another example of how small the margins for victory are in football.
And that was it, time for nothing else but the whistle to be blown to end the game.
You can look at it as two (unlikely) points dropped but the way the game panned out, if you were there you`ll have to agree that this was more a point gained.
Southampton were a good side and offered more threat than we did. They had 15 shots and 7 on target to our 3 on and 2 on target.
It`s not good enough to be at home and offer such a meagre shot count. There are a lot of “if`s and buts” that could`ve occurred here but the bottom line is we didn`t score and neither did our opponents. Our defence was again mostly very good. Bassong and Turner were excellent and Turner dealt with the muscular threat of Lambert with ease.
It remains a concern that we can`t seem to score but don`t blame the strikers, it`s a lack of service for the front men that`s the problem. We need a more creative midfielder in the centre – David Fox, anyone?
Next up are Sunderland away and another game against a side below us that we cannot afford to lose – I`d take a draw now.
But we have to go there and believe we can get more from it – The Sky cameras will be watching so let`s go full of belief that we can get the win. A performance akin to that of Swansea or Villa away would do nicely.
Remember readers, glass half full eh?