Graham Pearcey

Graham Pearcey

Southampton 0 Cherries 0

Date: 1 April 2017

Well we waited nearly three months for a clean sheet but have now managed two in a row, thanks to Steve Cook – my man of the match in both games – and Artur Boruc. Even more significantly we gained another valuable point in our battle against relegation.

It’s my hope that the positivity of the clean sheet, and point away from home, will be remembered longer than the two appalling misses (by Afobe and Arter) that were the main talking point immediately after the match.

But to start at the beginning: after being sent around a maze of crush barriers to enter the stadium, we encountered again the appalling congestion of the concourse beneath the visitors’ stand. (And as for the congestion around the gents’, the less said the better!) If anything, this would prove to be even worse at half time. For such a modern stadium, there seem to be some serious design flaws. Having said that, today we were in good seats near the top of the stand (not the front row, rain-drenched, seat I experienced on my first ever visit to St Mary’s).  The team lined up exactly as last time. Fraser’s injury seemed to have come to nothing and he was starting; Arter and Stanislas were obviously on the mend as they were on the bench.

There wasn’t a lot to write home about in the first half – though the banter between the two sets of fans was good! My favourite moment in this respect was when we sang “You’ve only got one song” and the home fans responding by singing their ‘one song’ even louder – to a chorus of deafening boos! On the pitch Steve Cook quickly established himself as our man of the match – causing a little consternation when he lay injured for a minute or so requiring treatment – while Boruc made some good saves too. The match was fairly evenly balanced until the last ten minutes or so of the half when Southampton dominated. We therefore welcomed the break when it came. 0-0.

Within a minute of the restart Surman had to be substituted – making it surprising that he’d restarted at all – and Arter came on to great cheers. On the hour mark King was running forward with the ball and got into a scoring position but either he decided to be unselfish, or perhaps he felt the unmarked Afobe to his left was in an even better position, but he squared the ball to him – and Afobe managed to miss the target spectacularly from close range! Southampton fans were still jeering about this when on the break the ball went to the other end and Ward-Prowse also missed the target when it looked easier to score. And seven or eight minutes later, Long for Southampton missed from a similar angle (right of the target) making Afobe’s miss look less like a game changer. Some would probably have felt 2-1 to the Saints would have been fair at this point. But subsequently Smith managed a shot that hit the post, and then … the moment Arter will have nightmares about for ever! Fraser was fouled in the area and a penalty was awarded. Whether Josh King is still our preferred penalty taker we were unable to discover because he’d already been substituted (by Wilshere – who waited absolutely ages to get his first touch of the ball), but certainly Arter didn’t hesitate to step forward. And he skyed the shot! There have been subsequent discussions about how much the pitch can be blamed, but the fact remained that this was the best scoring opportunity we’d get today – and was also our third penalty miss in three games.

The rest of the 0-0 draw was played out with some gratitude on the part of the home team – some of whose fans drifted away early. (To be honest Southampton had had a very quiet game apart from their two chances, and were disappointing for a team ‘supposed to be at home’.) Late on we had a free kick in a promising position, taken by Adam Smith – but unlike the Swansea game this time his attempt to get the ball up and over the wall failed miserably. So 0-0 it was.

The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):

Boruc (8);
A Smith (7), Francis (7), S Cook (8), Daniels (7);
Fraser (7), Surman (6), Gosling (7), Pugh (7);
Afobe (5), King (6)

By the end the line-up was:

A Smith, Francis, S Cook, Daniels;
Fraser, Gosling, Arter, Pugh;

My 'man of the match' : S Cook.

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