Thoughts of our new ground can never be far away when you visit places like St Mary’s. Southampton’s no longer new out of the box but still relatively recently delivered stadium is one of the worst for identikit homogenity; swap it with the KC, Riverside or Madjeski and see if anyone notices. The retail park appearance to it outside combined with the music booming, kid friendly, flag waving artificial atmosphere inside make one fear for what sort of monster is eventually going to spring up opposite the Chick King in N17, but you hope desperately that the designers and architects have done their best to avoid a supersize version of this particular piece of Meccano.
Lunchtime kick offs are the favourite of few spectators and apparently not many of the players involved here either as both sides struggled with the slippery pitch and the managers press ’em high tactics and failed to make any headway for the first twenty five minutes or so. More entertaining were the locals’ attempts to let Pochettino know how unwelcome he was back in the provinces, attempts that didn’t appear to faze our man whatsoever whenever he appeared, nattily suited and booted, on the touchline.
He would’ve been more perturbed by the panic and incompetence that lead to the home side’s opener. If Mané’s speed left Vertonghen and Fazio blushing then Davies would’ve consider himself completely undressed by Pellé’s physicality. The Saintly big lump bundled the full back aside as he attempted to deal with Mason’s overhit pass back and toe poked past Hugo. Mason’s slip on the perhaps overwatered pitch wasn’t the first or the last of the ninety minutes and probably contributed to Davies twisting something important near the end and getting stretchered off.
We’d had plenty of possession before going behind but our narrow swimming upstream style had few moments that whiffed of danger. Southampton were now firmly on top and Davis missed the first of three good chances he would have in the game before from nowhere Lamela of all people bundled a Dier cross in at the near post to equalise before half time. A Chadli skier aside, our first shot I believe. Dembélé was late joining in the subs half time kickabout and I personally hoped that this was a sign that he was going to be sent on to add some solid beef to a carpaccio midfield, but no. The same eleven took the field for the second half and the same scenario unfolded; we crept forward and sideways and backwards and sideways and sideways and sideways and… whilst Southampton waited for their opportunities to hoist a ball towards Pellé to fight for or over the top for Mané to scamper on to.
Their tactics bore fruit when Long found enough space to launch a cross towards Pellé who left Fazio on the deck whilst he directed a firm header over Lloris’s right shoulder. At this point we were struggling to contain them. Mané’s niggling, moaning and diving was making him few friends in the Spurs side and the ref was wise to him but his pace was more of a problem. Pellé may be no stranger to the pasta trolley but he was getting the better of Faz and Jan time after time. In midfield for them Alderweireld and Schneiderlin were a good contrast to Mason and Bentaleb, experience and style against whippersnapper enthusiasm. With better support from Davis and Ward-Prowse they may have caused more damage. I know we’ve got injuries but Southampton’s pace advantage was very noticeable, surely an increase in mph is high on Pochettino’s summer bucket list.
The manager had decided that changes were needed in the shape of Townsend and Soldado. They were poised to come on when Dier was alert to the run of Chadli and placed a precise ball inside Bertrand. The top-knotted Belgian held off a centre half and finished expertly. The subs moved back to the bench whilst Chadli celebrated in front of the away fans by pointing his thumbs to the name on the back of his shirt. He should be under no illusion that we don’t know who he is – his name is regularly bellowed by those around me at White Hart Lane.
As the players tired the game became slightly more stretched and we threatened more than we had been doing but never created a clear cut opening. At the other end, after Davies departure, we were now playing four centre halfs across the back so given that we did well to hold on to a point particularly against the onslaught of corners and free-kicks in the lengthy period of injury time. Two goals against a notoriously mean defence and a point at a ‘difficult place to go to’ are not to be sniffed at but it should be noted that both our goals were something of a surprise when they came and if the home team had taken one of any number of chances it may’ve been different. Still, never mind – their problem not ours. COYS.
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