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Southampton 2 Yeovil Town 0
IT DOESN’T always matter how you win in football, just so long as you do.
That was exactly the situation for Saints against Yeovil on Saturday and their performance fitted it perfectly.
It was nervy, the football was never of a consistently high standard, and there were a few areas of concern going forward.
But on this occasion all that really mattered was the result – and they got it.
It felt like a pivotal game beforehand, even if occasionally in the build up to the match most Saints fans would have had to pinch themselves and wondered how over the course of the past six years playing Yeovil at home could have become a pivotal game.
Saints winning opens up a chasm of opportunity for them, the start of a brighter future.
A much needed win for Saints and a deserved one. There are things to work on but they are for another day. This should be the catalyst for Saints to kick on and prove they have one of the strongest squads in the league.Adam Leitch
To have drawn or even lost would have turned the tidal wave of pressure that was on the horizon into a tsunami.
It was one that you feared would wash a few players away with it.
Make no mistake, Saints should have beaten Yeovil. No doubt about that.
A quick look at the respective squads before the game told you there was a large gulf in quality.
But there has been a gulf in quality between Saints and a few of their opponents this season and they have failed to win.
Likewise, watching the warmups before the game was enlightening.
Saints had coaching staff, fitness coaches and still members of the backroom team to spare.
Most of the Yeovil squad had to take their own warm-up.
These are games Saints should win, but they have no divine right to.
A win in whatever fashion was needed for the confidence and to give the squad the shot in the arm that can see them not have to face ‘pivotal’ home games against Yeovil again.
In future these will hopefully be straightforward victories.
To entirely paper over any cracks and just point to the result is not right, though, even if the three points were more important than the performance.
Saints need to find a way to get pace into their side because the lack of it is a major problem.
Marek Saganowski and Rickie Lambert both work hard up front but are similar players, neither with a lot of pace.
That makes them too flat, too narrow, too easy for opposition defences to handle for much of the time.
They either need a quick man playing off of one of them or even a pacy winger who, by stretching the play and pulling the defence across, would create space for them to operate in central areas.
The Saints boss has to be commended for a terrific signing in the central midfielder who is a most tenacious opponent and a real winner.
He needed to be against a Yeovil side who sat deep and were happy to use their ample pace on the counter attack.
They were spirited initially but young and lacking in confidence and so were rocked once Saints got themselves a cushion.
Sam Williams, Andrew Welsh and Gavin Tomlin all caused early concern before Hammond headed over from close range.
The first decisive moment came on 19 minutes when Marek Saganowski jinked towards the by-line on the left side of the area and was chopped down by Terrell Forbes.
It was a clumsy and needless challenge and no arguing with referee Tony Bates’ award of a penalty.
Rickie Lambert drilled the ball low to Richard Martin’s right. The keeper, making his first Football League start, got fingertips to it but it was very well struck and he couldn’t keep it out.
After a few minutes looking comfortable Saints started to panic.
It was the curse of the 1-0 lead again and you could feel the anxiety spread all round St Mary’s.
It was not helped when Williams headed over from ten yards out and then Craig Alcock, totally unmarked from a set-piece, did the same when he should have scored.
Thankfully for Saints they managed to get in at the break with their lead intact and Pardew was able to calm them down.
Who knows whether that would have lasted had they not doubled their lead early in the second period.
but thankfully we never found out.
Bates awarded a second penalty in much stranger circumstances.
Lloyd James was down the right and cut inside the area.
The linesman immediately flagged and as Saints started to complain about a foul being awarded against them everybody realised a penalty had been given for handball.
A long ball down the pitch had skipped off the turf and brushed Nathan Jones’ hand.
It was incredibly harsh.
There had been no appeals but there were no apologies either as Lambert went into the opposite corner just as emphatically for 2-0.
After that Saints looked in total control – it’s amazing what that extra goal can do.
They could had made it a more impressive scoreline but for good saves from Neal Trotman’s flicked header and sub Papa Waigo’s drilled near post effort.
But ultimately all that mattered was getting that first league win.
Suddenly, positive points and a positive season doesn’t seem so far away.