IFK VARNAMO 1 - SAINTS 2

EQUALISER: Anders Svensson taps home his first from on the goalline. Echo photo by Paul Collins.

EQUALISER: Anders Svensson taps home his first from on the goalline. Echo photo by Paul Collins.

First published in 03-04 Season

Even the freak thunderstorm and torrential downpour which saw this game abandoned four minutes from the end couldn't dampen the thought that Saints need a new striker.

When the thunder and lightning rolled in and the heavens opened like you wouldn't believe, Saints were leading 2-1 thanks to two more goals from the very in-form Anders Svensson.

But the truth is it was a poor game, partly due to the long grass, and a generally low-key performance.

Varnamo had taken the lead after only four minutes when Freddy Soderberg latched onto a long ball, held off a defender and finished impressively past Paul Jones.

Before the game a man from Varnamo had told me that Saints should beat this Swedish Division Two side 10-0.

At the time I thought that was a little optimistic bearing in mind it's only a pre-season friendly.

But with a bit more incision in attack, it might have been a little more than 2-1.

Varnamo were spirited; it was their big day against the famous faces of Southampton.

But the lack of a cutting edge, with James Beattie resting the calf injury he sustained on Wednesday against Jonkoping, was worrying.

Again Anders Svensson was Saints' best player, this time stating on the left of midfield - though he later moved into his more usual central position - and always looking like his side's best chance of scoring.

On 24 minutes his header from Jason Dodd's cross required a dramatic one-handed save from inspired goalkeeper Bjorn Ericsson and, after 37 minutes, Svensson's header set Brett Ormerod away only to see Ericsson save again.

From the resulting corner, Ormerod met Michael Svensson's header at the far post and saw his effort rebound off the upright.

Paul Jones was called upon to make a smart stop from Soderberg-s powerful free-kick five minutes into the second period, but it was Ericsson at the other end who kept Saints at bay.

After turning Anders Svensson's shot onto the post, the Swedish hero was to be denied no more netted two goals in the space of three minutes to give his side the lead.

The first came from the work of Jo Tessem, whose initial shot was saved only for the rebound to come back to the Norwegian who blasted it past the keeper where Svensson claimed to have the final touch right on the line.

His second was much more straightforward.

Fabrice Fernandes crossed deep from the right and Svensson steered his header past the keeper at the far post.

That was his sixth goal in his last three matches following braces against Jonkoping and for Sweden in a Euro 2004 qualifier against Poland in early June.

And that was pretty much the last meaningful action before the referee called the players off as monsoon-like rain saturated the pitch and everybody who hadn't taken cover.

The problem for Saints was that this display highlighted their need for another top quality goalscoring striker.

In an ideal world, if James Beattie, Marian Pahars, Agustin Delgado and Brett Ormerod were all fit then there would be adequate strength in depth, with Jo Tessem as cover.

But the reality of the situation is that with Delgado out for the immediate future, and Pahars struggling, it only needs one injury or suspension and you only have one out-and-out striker plus Tessem left.

Playing Anders Svensson as a striker is an option. But this display showed that without Beattie, and taking into account the injuries, Saints will struggle to score goals.

Tuesday 07 February 2006

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