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Southampton 0

Notts County 0

This was not a game to remember, I think we lost the tactical battle today. Paul Ince will never produce a pretty footballing team but he stamps his personality on his teams and Notts County today were a mean machine, just like like their boss.

When i heard the saints team announced my heart sank a little. No Hammond and no Lallana, so our tough holding midfielder out along with our most creative player, it did not bode well against a team in form. I thought Paul Ince would play it tough in midfield and the loss of Hammond would help their cause in there. I thought too that a team that has not lost many games recently would have an unforgiving defence and Lallana has that flair and trickery to unlock such defences or at least win a few free kicks.

We started with KD in goal, Richardson, Fonte, Jaidi, and Dickson at the back.. In midfield we had Chamberlain wide right, Schneiderlin and Chaplow central with Puncheon wide left. Up front Guly and Lambert.

On the bench were Bialowski, Butterfield,Harding, Barnard, Seaborne, Doble and Gobern. I would suggest that only Barnard could be described as an impact player. I have not seen Doble play but I understand he is a striker, he is not a particularly big player and does not look as he would scare any big central defenders.

It was a dull day with a strong blustery cold wind blowing. KD who was captain in Hammond's absence lost the toss and we were asked to kick towards the Chapel in the first half.

The game did not start too brightly, in fact it was a dull start enlivened only by a fuss pot of a referee who seemed more intent on making sure the throw ins were taken from the correct spot rather than punish fouls. NC were quick in to the tackle and would not let saints settle on the ball, that, and the blustery wind made for an untidy first half. In the first ten minutes it was obvious that their defenders were going to make life difficult for Alex Chamberlain and one tackle from behind when a defender went right through the back of the young winger only resulted in a telling off and a free kick. This was the sort of tackle which i thought had been outlawed from the game, a nailed on yellow card at the very least. Saints fans let the ref know their feelings. The response from the man in the middle was to immediately give a yellow card to saints defender Richardson, (i think) for an almost identical tackle a few seconds later.

Chamberlain certainly had the beating of his full back for pace but we did not give him enough of the ball to run on to, Gully was trying hard but it was not coming off for him, Lambert tried a few good lay offs and Schneiderlin some good cross field passes but we seldom got as far as a shooting position although Puncheon had a good chance which he snatched at whilst off balance, and it ballooned over the bar.

I thought saints just shaded the first half but in truth their 'keeper did not have to make one save. Kelvin Davies at the other end was also relatively untroubled. Poor half. 0 - 0.

At the start of the second half Oscar Gobern came on for Chaplow in midfield. Chaplow had not been his usual bustling self and at times had been out muscled in midfield, but I presume he was replaced because of injury. This change did not help saints and still the flow was missing, I thought Gobern did alright, he is an elegant player and tries to use the ball well, but he is not the sort of midfielder who is going to change a game just yet and we needed some inspiration from somewhere.
The ref continued to be inconsistent and refused to play the advantage a couple of times and so slowed down an already laboured game.

I could not understand why both Puncheon and Chamberlain, who had both found some success by using pace out wide, suddenly both decided instead to turn inside with the ball and thus run in to an overcrowded central defensive area. The NC defenders just outnumbered them. Chamberlain in particular had found some success bombing down the wing in the first half, maybe he took a knock to many at speed. Saints had little idea of how to break down the NC defence, and we still had not tested their 'keeper. We then did start to play with Chamberlain out wide a again but the ball was too straight at him instead of a head of him to tun on to. Nothing seemed to have an end product for saints.

Saints tried to alter things with ten minutes to go by bringing Puncheon off and bringing Barnard on. We reverted to the diamond formation with Lambert and Barnard as spearheads with Gully dropping off in the 'hole' behind them. The only thing wrong was that Paul Ince's lads did not allow a 'hole' for Guly to play in, so just crowded us out. We never really looked like scoring, in fact the visitors could have and should have won the game in the 3 minutes of time added on.

Fonte, who had been a tower of strength, gave a way a needless free kick, irresponsible at such a crucial time in the game in my view, when he climbed all over a visiting attacker not too far outside our penalty area.

A floated free kick nearly caught out Davis and he had to back peddle to just get a hand to the ball to tip it over the bar for a corner. An excellent save, probably his only save of the game. The danger was not over, because when the resultant corner came over the ball was won by a visiting attacker, but Dickson was in the right place on the line to save a certain goal and a certain loss of all three points.

So the game ended 0-0. I suppose a fair reflection on the game, saints had most of the play, but I do not think their 'keeper had even one save to make, so toothless was our attack.

I thought Fonte was immense, not only a the back but also when he started to bring the ball out of defence. Schneiderlin was again a good user of the ball and did little wrong, but no one else stood out. I do wish Rickie Lambert would not spend so much times appealing for free kicks, yes he got buffeted about by the Notts defence, but this ref was not giving him anything so why did he not show a bit more aggression himself? Not just take it and roll away with his arms in the air.

Paul Ince won the battle of tactics over the 90 minutes, there was no way we were going to get the sort of space we obviously had at Oldham, his team were not afraid to hit our players hard with tackles. Saints played well in patches but we never had any sustained spell of pressure. If Lallana, Hammond and Chaplow miss too many games because of injury then we will be in a mess. Puncheon did not play badly but he is erratic and frustrating at times, and it is not fair to expect young Gobern to influence games yet. We must use this transfer window to strengthen the squad with a bit of experience. I came away more frustrated than disappointed, we missed our chance to to consolidate our position in the top two.

All this in my humble opinion of course.


Notts County

Saturday, 15 January 2011
Ref: Scott

01 Davis
02 Richardson - yellow card
05 Dickson
06 Fonte
15 Jaidi
04 Schneiderlin
10 Puncheon (Barnard 79)
11 Guly
26 Oxlade-Chamberlain
30 Chaplow (Gobern 46)
07 Lambert

24 Bialkowski
03 Harding
12 Butterfield
19 Seaborne
27 Gobern
09 Barnard
29 Doble

Notts County
17 Nelson
04 Edwards - yellow card
06 Thompson - yellow card
12 Pearce
26 Harley - yellow card
08 Ravenhill (Spicer 87)
10 Bishop
11 Davies
22 Judge (Hunt 83)
19 Gow (Burgess 74)
20 Westcarr

44 Mitchell
05 Lee
18 Hunt
16 Gobern
25 Spicer
15 Hawley
27 Burgess