Last Saturday’s 6:30am start and midnight return for the trip to Anfield ultimately ended in disappointment. I thought Saints showed flashes of encouragement, with both Romeu back from out of the cold and Hojbjerg respectively putting in solid performances. However, up against a team littered with world class talent, you simply cannot afford to give away such cheap goals and sadly Liverpool didn’t even have to jump through the gears as we effectively were the architects of our own downfall.
After the match Mark Hughes admitted the second half was little more than damage limitations and although criticised by some for such an approach, I sympathise to a certain extent. Ultimately at 3-0 the game was gone and with other, more important/winnable games looming, the last thing wanted was a demoralising thrashing that would have drained the squad of all confidence.
On a brighter note, although the U23s endured a contrasting week, it certainly ended with positivity. Last Friday their unbeaten start to the season was tarnished as they were dispatched 1-0 at home to Aston Villa but they redeemed themselves Wednesday when entertaining Porto in the U23 Premier League International Cup at Staplewood. Featuring in the competition for the first time, Saints held the Portuguese to a credible 1-1 draw, being denied maximum points only by a debatable penalty awarded late on. However, as disappointing as the setback must have been at the time, once digested, the result can be looked upon as even more impressive when considering Porto have won the competition the past two consecutive seasons.
In other news, former Saints legend and assister of the late, great, Bobby Stokes’ 1976 FA Cup winning goal Jim McCalliog was recently interviewed and praised Stuart Armstrong, referring to the Scot as a shrewd piece of business. Tall, strong and perfectly suited to the number 10 position, unfortunately the former Celtic playmaker has most likely been a victim of Hughes’ recent preference of a 4-4-2 formation. Hopefully we’ll soon see him play a greater role in the starting eleven, sliding through killer balls for our forwards and allowing Danny Ings to occupy attacking positions more frequently rather than having to drop deep.
Looking ahead to the trip to Molineux, Ryan Bertrand was quoted in the week as saying we need to beat teams like Wolves. Although this mindset may be slightly over optimistic considering the midlands club’s spending power and wrath of international experience, I do agree to a point. Obviously under usual circumstances a recently promoted side would quite often be regarded as a great opportunity to pick up points but clearly the momentum from winning the Championship at a canter and settling into Premier League life (notching up impressive results such as draws against both Manchester clubs) makes the side a wholly different proposition. That being said, looking back at our previous fixture, any points gained from matches versus the elite are a bonus and therefore it is imperative that we seek out results, even draws against sides such as Wolves.
On a more personal note, the trip to Wolves for Dad and I will be the 70th Football League ground chalked up in our quest to visit all 92 clubs within the pyramid. Safe trip to all supporters heading up for the match, fingers crossed for a decent outcome and I’ll see you at Molineux.