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Southampton 2 Torquay United 2 (5-3 on penalties)
SAINTS’ entry into the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy has been greeted with a little mirth and gallows humour by the supporters – but this is a competition worth taking seriously.
For many a long year, Saints fans have been able to look down at the Trophy, something which those outside of League One and League Two, and a few inside as well, regard as the ‘Mickey Mouse Trophy.’ It is of course a mark of how far Saints have fallen that they are in this competition at all. But now they are it is worth winning.
At the start of the season a quick look at Saints’ upcoming campaign suggested it could be.
The league will always be the top priority, but starting with a ten point deduction achieving much more than an upper midtable finish was always going to be a big ask.
With the start to the season Saints have had, as the team gel, that really does appear to be the case.
Alright, the play-offs are not totally out of reach but it will need a monumental run of form in the next three quarters of the season to get there so you have to rate it as more unlikely than likely.
Saints rode their luck but held their nerve when it mattered to get through. It was not a pretty performance and showed cracks in the squad. But Saints are still in with a shot of a trip to Wembley.Adam Leitch
Saints’ chances of winning the FA Cup are somewhere between slim and none.
The Carling Cup was marginally better but with that ship having already sailed it leaves the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
At the end of this potential run is the opportunity of a Wembley final, a piece of silverware and, more importantly, a sense of momentum at the club and a feel good factor that could be generated as a result.
If Saints were in with a chance of going up automatically such as Leeds and Charlton you would feel it was extra games they could do without. But this season, and hopefully not next when they should be up there challenging, this is worth a real shot.
Alan Pardew has obviously recognised that fact.
From the moment the team sheets were printed it was obvious he wanted to get through – even if it did prove a rank struggle.
No less than seven of his starting XI kicked off the empathic league win over Gillingham – and of those four changes two were enforced anyway.
For the opening salvos of last night’s game, Saints started pretty brightly but then seemed to lose the plot entirely before a second half recovery.
It was almost as if they looked like scoring so easily that they took a win for granted and, as is always the way in football, that means you risk losing.
Waigo came close again on 13 minutes with a shot that beat Bevan but whistled just wide of the far post.
But, in a half in which Saints’ territorial dominance was underlined by a corner count of 10-0, they conceded two truly awful goals.
The first, on 21 minutes, was from a long throw. Kevin Nicholson bombed it in from the left and Kelvin Davis showed an uncharacteristic error in judgement.
He tried to come for the ball but could’t get through to it and it ricocheted off Tim Sills, who knew nothing about it, and bounced into the net – and Torquay had a shock 1-0 lead.
Saints didn’t react positively and instead went into their shells somewhat, the 4-5-1 formation really not bringing what it can to the party. Things got even worse when Torquay doubled their lead just before half time.
The Saints defence went AWOL as a simple pass from Lee Mansell played Tyrone Thompson clean in on goal.
He had a rabbit in the headlights look but knocked the ball past Davis and tried to sprint by him before the referee adjudged he was tripped by the Saints keeper’s legs.
A penalty was awarded and Davis booked. But the damage was done by Nicky Wroe whose left footed spot kick straight down the middle gave Saints everything to do at half time.
Pardew changed the formation to 4-4-2 and slowly Saints found their feet again. They halved the deficit on 59 minutes as Dan Harding’s chipped free kick from the right was headed back across goal by Marek Saganowski and in the ensuing scramble Waigo stabbed the ball home.
Ten minutes later Waigo levelled the scores. There was total hesitancy and indecision in the Torquay area after a shot from Saganowski, and Waigo took full advantage to pounce to score from close range.
Oddly Torquay were playing better in the second half than they had the first just as Saints were.
They came close to regaining their lead twice.
First Wroe tried an audacious lob from the halfway line that dropped just wide before a glorious chance to win it on 80 minutes as Thompson played in Elliot Benyon but one-on-one he slid his shot across Davis and wide.
Chris Perry came close for Saints, smashing James’ corner against the bar with a fierce header before Mark Ellis put a free header over the crossbar for Torquay.
In the end it went to penalties and Saints finished with a perfect record, Paul Wotton scoring the decisive spot kick after Nicholson’s effort had been saved by Davis.
Saints got themselves off the hook but you’ve got to be in it to win and the path to Wembley remains clear.
1-0 Saints. Lambert right footed drilled into the keeper’s top right hand corner.
1-1 Wroe sends Davis the wrong way, slotting the ball into the keeper’s bottom left hand corner.
2-1 Saints. Waigo chips the ball into Bevan’s top right hand corner.
2-2 Robertson sends Davis the wrong way, putting into his bottom right hand corner.
3-2 Saints. James goes into the bottom left, again the keeper goes the wrong way.
3-2. Nicholson left footed fairly central. Davis diving to his left makes the save.
4-2 Saints. Mills with a fierce drive. Bevan guesses correctly diving to his left but is beaten for pace.
4-3 Mansell into the top right hand corner.
5-3 Saints.Wotton seals it by drilling into Bevan’s bottom right hand corner.