• Guly 18
Saturday, 20th August 2011
Well that was different. Saints ground out a result and doggedly defended their 18th minute lead.
In the recent past, defending a slender lead was something beyond our wildest dreams and something Saints fans only associated with the 1976 FA Cup win.
There were absolutely no surprises in the starting eleven and I think most Saints fans could now recite the members of the team. Our latest signing, left back Danny Fox, was on the subs bench.
Right from the off, even though Saints were playing their now usual high tempo, short passing game, it was clear that this was not an afternoon when Saints were going to have things all their own way. Millwall were quick, athletic and well drilled. In fact everything I would expect from a team managed by Kenny Jackett. Up until the goal and indeed for several minutes after Saints had the upper hand, but the more the game went on the more Millwall came into the game. The BBC stats say that Saints had 51% possession, but that is not how I remember it! Maybe that shows how tense I was the nearer to the end of the game it got.
The goal in the 18th minute was exquisite in it's execution. Started and finished by Guly, sandwiching a contribution from Cork, which included a perfectly weighted pass beyond the Millwall defenders for Guly to run onto. Cracking stuff. Little did we realise at the time that this was going to be the only goal.
Millwall knuckled down to the task and began to get into the game. Still, although they were increasingly controlling the midfield I didn't feel that we were under that much pressure at the back. I was relieved when we got to half time without conceding.
Nobody was surprised when the teams came out for the second half and Schneiderlin was put on to help shore up the midfield, but what did surprise me was that it was Hammond that was taken off. To me he was one of the bright spots in the first half, having run and harried all over the pitch. It became increasingly clear as the half wore on that we were seeing some very, very tired players. In fact towards the end of the game, when all three subs had been used Harding was in all sorts of trouble and the physio came over to talk to him and make sure he took more fluids.
To be frank I lost count of the number of chances Millwall had to score and Davis seemed to be in almost continual action. I do remember Richardson clearing off the line at one point (Again! He is developing into a cracking right back) and several other moments of tension when there were cries of alarm all round.
This team is made of sterner stuff though. The instructions, as we approached the end of normal time and moved into time added on, were to keep possession. This led to a moment of amusement when Lambert found himself almost clean through on goal and you could almost see the confusion in his mind. Normally you would expect him to push on and go for goal, but he stopped looked around, dithered a bit and then passed the ball back and to the right.
This was the game when we found out that Saints can indeed defend and are just not a team that can score lots of goals. Best of all was seeing that we are still top of the Championship after the first four games, albeit on goal difference over Derby, but good to see nonetheless.
Referee : D'Urso
Attendance : 23,333
14 Hammond (Schneiderlin - 46' )
20 Lallana (Fox - 62' )
22 Connolly (De Ridder - 69' )
33 De Ridder
05 Robinson Booked
06 Trotter (Abdou - 38' )
08 Bouazza (Hackett - 78' )
14 Henry Booked
07 Henderson Booked
09 Marquis (McQuoid - 46' )