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Saints suffer Bees sting at St Mary's
Saints’ nine-match unbeaten home run came to an end as they were beaten 2-0 by Brentford in a lacklustre display at St Mary’s.
Nigel Adkins’ team looked sluggish after not playing last weekend due to the weather and fell two down inside half an hour thanks to some uninspired work at the back.
After that they rarely looked like pegging the Bees back, despite some vocal support inside St Mary’s, and their final home game before Christmas ended with the rare taste of defeat – the first game that Nigel Adkins had lost on his own patch since taking over.
Saints so nearly got off to the perfect start as they forced Richard Lee into a terrific save after just two minutes.
Alex Chamberlain’s persistence saw him rob Craig Woodman of the ball and he whipped in a cross from the right.
Rickie Lambert flicked it on to Guly do Prado whose header from ten yards out was acrobatically turned over the bar by the Brentford keeper.
As the game settled down Saints were briefly on top but found Brentford were well organised at the back and they matched Saints up with a 4-4-2 formation not regularly seen from visiting teams at St Mary’s this season.
And they stunned Saints by taking the lead on 13 minutes.
Brentford managed to have a sustained period of possession for the first time in the match but there looked little danger as Gary Alexander cut in and decided to have a left-footed shot from 25 yards.
It was straight at Kelvin Davis but bounced just in front of him. The Saints keeper wasn’t fully behind it and saw the ball bounce up off his left arm and slowly bounce up behind him and cross the line for 1-0.
Dan Seaborne became the first man in the book five minutes later for a late challenge on Alexander.
Davis completed a good save to stop things getting worse for Saints moments later, getting down to his left to block from Charlie MacDonald.
Saints had appeals for a penalty waved away on 22 minutes when Morgan Schneiderlin saw his header back towards goal blocked, possibly by an arm.
Rickie Lambert extended Lee on 26 minutes with a trademark free from 25 yards just to the left of centre. It went over the wall but Lee, diving to his right, was able to turn it away.
Things got worse for Saints on 28 minutes when they conceded another very poor goal.
They failed to defend a simple free kick that was chipped up to the edge of the box and flicked on.
The defensive line was all over the place and Charlie MacDonald was able to get in between Dan Seaborne and Davis to stab the loose ball home for 2-0.
Saints were looking so shaky, from back to front, and Brentford continued to look threatening as a stunned St Mary’s watched on in a slight sense of disbelief.
Saints so nearly pulled a goal back in added time as Adam Lallana tricked his way into the area but his excellent effort across goal was just touched wide by Lee diving to his left.
When the half-time whistle went it was a relief to Saints. They may have got a few boos but they badly needed the time to regroup after a dreadful first-half performance where they had been second best in pretty much every department.
The second half started with the momentum continually broken for Saints, the first incident of note a booking for Dean Hammond for a late challenge.
Chamberlain had his first sight of goal on 53 minutes when a cross was headed out to him but from 12 yards out he fired his half volley across goal but wide.
Brentford responded with a half chance of their own two minutes later as Sam Saunders’ drilled near post corner was met by a diving header from Alexander that flew over the bar.
Saints did have a little bit of a change of plan as Chamberlain moved up front and do Prado to the right of midfield.
To their great credit the Saints fans were generating plenty of noise to try and give their side the lift they so badly needed.
On the pitch Saints were responding by keeping possession and they created a couple of half chances, Chamberlain hitting the target with a header that was straight at Lee.
Brentford were much happier to sit deep than previously in the match and allow Saints possession at the back. They kept two up front but made sure they didn’t over commit and always had men behind the ball.
Toumani Diagouraga became the first Bees player in the book for a foul on Lambert.
Chamberlain tried his luck from distance but his shot was straight at Lee who got his body behind the ball to save.
Brentford made their first change on 74 minutes with Nicky Forster replacing Alexander.
The game was meandering away from Saints. They were working hard and the team pressing but they rarely looked particularly threatening.
They just needed a moment of inspiration to find a goal that would then put them well on top in the final stages.
Brentford made another change with Michael Spillane replacing Marcus Bean.
Saints finally responded with a switch of their own with seven minutes remaining with David Connolly coming on for Lambert.
Forster had a chance to kill the game off when Ryan Dickson’s awful pass across the face of his own area picked out the Bees striker but his first time shot was dragged wide.
Brentford made a late switch with Robbie Simpson replacing MacDonald.
Lallana came close to pulling one back with a left wing free kick that struck the post and came back out.
When the fourth official held up the board it showed there were four minutes of time to be added on but the game was already over as a contest, despite a last gasp effort from Chamberlain that was deflected wide, and when the final whistle went it confirmed a very disappointing Saints defeat.
For match reaction and analysis, don't miss Monday's Daily Echo.