Wolverhampton Wanderers 3 Southampton 0

Bradley Wright-Phillips

Bradley Wright-Phillips

First published in 08-09 Season Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Sports Writer

PRESSURE or no pressure, relegation battle or title tilt, there are certain basics you need to achieve to win games of football.

If you fail with these nuts and bolts aspects of the game, then it is pretty irrelevant how good the rest of your performance is because you will lose.

Probably the biggest basic of them all is set-pieces, and in particular defending them.

Saints have leaked goals from set-pieces for some time now and it is hurting them badly.

At Wolves yesterday Saints were guilty of more terrible and costly errors.

They found themselves 3-0 down and effectively out of the game within just 18 minutes at Molineux – and ALL the goals were avoidable.

If you can’t defend set-pieces then you are going to have big problems and Saints did at Wolves. The game was over as a contest after 18 minutes but Saints have to pick themselves up. Anything but a win against Crystal Palace and they will look all but down.

Adam Leitch

Thankfully after that they did at least limit the carnage to prevent a damaging blow becoming a fatal one.

If at this stage of the season you get beat by an even more empathic scoreline than this, then it is hard to come back.

Saints do still have a chance but the margin for error now is thinner than ever and also relies so heavily on the results of other teams.

But if Saints can't win three out of their next four then they can't expect to stay up.

And, forget others helping them out, they need to help themselves.

To defend set-pieces properly is exactly that.

Against Crystal Palace on Monday, a game they now simply have to win, they will get plenty of aerial bombardment.

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If they can’t handle it then hopes of survival may well go up in smoke.

As it was, there seemed a horrible air of inevitability about things at Wolves, and suddenly that point at Watford did look like two dropped rather than one gained as we suspected it would.

It took just 38 seconds for Wolves to take the lead.

It came direct from a right wing corner from David Jones that picked out the head of Sam Vokes.

He had inexplicably been allowed to lose his marker entirely and simply planted his header past Rudi Skacel on the line.

It took until just six minutes for things to get even worse.

Again it was from a set-piece, this time a short corner, that Jones delivered.

Jody Craddock had peeled off his man and guided his header across Kelvin Davis and into the far corner.

Andy Keogh threatened to add another before Saints at least managed some kind of effort as Marek Saganowski’s flicked header drifted wide.

But on 18 minutes Wolves effectively ended the game as a contest.

Much like they did from a throw in at Watford, Saints were not alert to a quick free-kick routine from Wolves and it culminated with Saganowski tripping David Edwards as he was running out of the top right corner of the area.

Referee Anthony Taylor duly awarded a penalty which Jones made no mistake in firing convincingly into the top corner.

After that you feared the score could really rack up, but in fairness to Saints they did show a bit of steel and refused to lie down and be a total punchbag – albeit it’s far easier to play at 3-0 down.

Wayne Hennessey was forced into his first meaningful save on 23 minutes but it was from his own player as Matt Jarvis’ sliding block of a cross was deflected goalwards.

David McGoldrick’s run and shot didn’t threaten before Keogh blasted wide the last chance of the first half.

Mark Wotte made two changes at the break to try and get an early goal that perhaps could have turned things around, but it just didn’t happen.

Though the teams were more evenly matched in the second period, Wolves knowing they had the game won, there was no joy for Saints.

Saganowski at least tested Hennessey six minutes into the half while Bradley Wright-Phillips cut inside but saw his shot deflected wide on 69 minutes.

Jan-Paul Saeijs tried to repeat his free kick heroics at Watford as the game marched towards its conclusion but Hennessey was able to get across to complete the save.

Saganowski also had another effort after some nice build up on the right, but on this occasion his shot was not clean and it was comfortable for the keeper.

With Wolves battling to win the division and Saints to stay up, it would be tempting to say they looked at times like teams with two divisions between them.

In general play that would be a bit harsh, but when it came to the basics two divisions was perhaps a generous assessment.

Some neutrals felt Saints looked like a side who had accepted their fate.

It is up to them to prove that is not the case and that they do still believe.

One thing is for sure, there is absolutely no margin for error now.

If these few wins Saints look like needing don’t come now, right now, they will be relegated.

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