A rested and rejuvinated Mike Allott, fresh from his honeymoon exploits in Barcelona, was back at St Mary’s last night—and promptly wished he wasn’t. Very much a case of groundhog day as Saints squandered a two-goal lead at St Mary’s.
Well it was a case of same old same old at St Mary’s last night, the night started with a bang and ended in a whimper unless you’re a Brighton fan that is.
Mark Hughes named an unchanged team from the one which triumphed at Palace, with Longy partnering Danny Ings up front, and to be fair it worked with Longy working his socks off in his attempt to create space for Ings to work his magic.
After a nervy starts from both sides, it was all much of a muchness until 22 minutes when Saints won a corner. Elyounoussi fired the ball to the backstick, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was there to head the ball back in to the 6 yard box, a quick game of pinball ensued before the ball fell to Wesley Hoedt who’s attempt on goall nearly took out a lad standing at the back of the Northam stand.
It took 35 minutes of this pretty lacklustre affair to liven up. Elyounoussi’s attempted cross was headed back out to Hojbjerg who took one touch and unleashed a fierce drive from all of 35 yards. His hard, low curling shot, that for all the world looked like it was going to hit the post or go wide, went in to give Saints a muchdeserved lead. The jubilant Saints fans celebrated in style, taunting the Brighton fans, who had been in good voice until then.
Now I’m not one look back at past glories of the Saints but this goal reminded me of Cuca Martina’s goal against Arsenal a few years ago, simply because it wasn’t expected. It was a peach of a shot, and judging by Pierre’s reaction, he didn’t expect it to go in either. That was pretty much it for the first half.
I don’t know what Sparky has been feeding PEH lately but the lad has been mustard, despite his recent sending off, he’s come on leaps and bounds this season. I have been saying since he joined “that you don’t go to school at Bayern Munich under Pep and not be able to play” and he proved that again last night, the lad is Quality with a capital Q.
Brighton started the second half like a team that had just been roasted by the boss, they seemed to want it to more than the Saints players, until the 63rd minute when the ball fell to Ings 25 yards out. His direct run to the Brighton box panicked the three defenders around him, with Bong, whose calm went up in smole, panicked the most and took the striker’s legs from under him, leaving the ref pointing to the spot.
The question on many fans’ lips was “who is going to take it?” Thankfully Ings himself picked up the ball and placed it on the spot. He took a few steps back and with the obligatory little stutter he stroked the ball beyond the reach of Ryan in the Brighton goal. it looked like Saints were going to get two wins on bounce for the first time in 17 months.
But then on 67 minutes the Ref took over, awarding a soft free-kick to Brighton. The ball was swung in and an unchallenged Shane Duffy was on hand to head it home. The goal really gave Brighton the inspiration to push on in search of an equaliser and it knocked the stuffing out of Saints who had been in control until then.
On 76 minutes Sparky decides to make a double substitution, bringing off Long and Elyounoussi for James Ward-Prowse and Gabbiadini. Now I understand swapping Longy for Gabbi, but with the size of some of these Brighton players, I found JWP for Moi a bit strange to be honest. Then on 84 minutes Stephen Davis replaced Danny Ings.
A minute later the ref decides to run half way up the pitch to tell McCarthy to get a move on with the goal kick, despite the fact Alex didn’t even have the ball at the time. When the ball arrived Alex moved from one side of his box to the other to take the goal kick, and Anthony Taylor, who was by this time playing up to the Sky cameras, decides Alex needs to be booked, for wasting time I presume.
In the 88th minute Brighton were awarded a corner, from the resulting in-swinger the ball was headed towards McCarthy’s goals from four yards out, and with an oustretched arm he made a quite unbelievable save tat resulted in another corner from the opposite side. Now this is when, In my opinion, the ref decides that McCarthy shouldn’t have taken the mickey out of him at the earlier goal kick and metes out his revenge his on McCarthy and Saints by awarding Brighton what I believe to be the softest of soft penalties, much to the delight of the travelling fans. The ball came in, and the 10 stone (when soaking wet) James Ward Prowse collides with Shane Duffy, but JWP was adjudged to have pushed over 12st 6ft 3 defender. Some will say JWP shouldn’t have given the ref the opportunity to give the penalty but he collided with Duffy, nothing more nothing less in my opinion.
From the resulting spot-kick Murray steps up and slotted the ball home, leaving Saints to snatch a draw from the arms of a victory Being 2-0 up with less half an hour to go against Brighton at home and to only to draw is quite shocking to tell the truth. Sparky really needs to work on game management with the players and also take a look at his substitutions.
Where are the next three points coming from? With Liverpool, Wolves away and Chelsea at home, you tell me.