Date: 19 October 2022
Gary O’Neil’s unbeaten run as interim head coach came to an end this evening as we were narrowly beaten by Southampton.
My two previous matches had taken place in warmer and sunnier weather than predicted. Once again, tonight, the forecasts proved inaccurate; but this time in a different way. The forecast had been for non-stop rain, turning thundery before the end of the match, but with a mild temperature of about 17 degrees. In the event there was no rain after 6 PM but the night felt about ten degrees cooler than forecast!
I was pleased to see that O’Neil had named the same starting eleven as the previous two matches – until it transpired that he’d completely changed the system and everyone seemed to be in a new position. Especially Fredericks as left wing back with Tavernier on the right! More worryingly, these two swapped places very early on; then Cook and Lerma also swapped places; and the three centre backs re-organised themselves into the order (right to left) Mepham – Senesi – Smith. And all this within the first half. This may have been intended to confuse the opposition but it seemed rather to have the effect of confusing our own players!
Whilst all this role-swapping was going on, Southampton were getting on with winning the game. Their one goal was a header from Che Adams in the eighth minute. We were poor in the first half, to be honest, and the half-time score of 0-1 was fair.
We showed a lot more flair in the second half, and surged forwards over and over again – but without changing the system, and with the final ball always poor. Our crosses, corner kicks (of which we had many), and free kicks were all less slick than usual. For example, one Lewis Cook free kick, from a promising position, sailed over the opposition wall and thence the crossbar. And Cook wasn’t the only player who wasn’t at his best: Senesi once turned his back just as Neto was passing the ball in his direction; and only recovered the situation just in time.
Five minutes were added at the end of the game. We didn’t look likely to concede any more goals, but we didn’t look likely to score either; it just wasn’t our night!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Tavernier, Smith, Mepham, Senesi, Fredericks;
Christie, Cook, Lerma, Billing;