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Southampton 2 Norwich City 2
THERE ARE times when a game of football can absorb, thrill and entertain in an almost magical way.
Saints’ draw with Norwich was exactly that and for that reason alone everybody should keep a sense of perspective over it.
In the cold headed light of day it’s hard to be satisfied with drawing a game where you have twice taken the lead, particularly at home.
Yes, it does also dent whatever play-off ambitions remain still further.
But sometimes things in life don’t have to be about winning, or gain, or profit.
They can just be nice, they can just be things that make you smile and make life better.
A fantastic game of football which ended with a fair result. There were moments of quality, moments of farce and moments to remember. Forget all the serious stuff, just for one game, because this is why we love football.Adam Leitch
The game against Norwich did just that.
As a match it had everything from great goals, sublime skill, passion, enthusiasm, two teams going at it both desperate to win, awful conditions that made for some crazy moments and haphazard defending.
All right, football is about winning but just once in a while it is acceptable to not see your team win and to enjoy it.
That’s the beauty of sport.
If you want to be deadly serious about it, then every game that slips by and Saints fail to win is another small kick in the guts for their promotion chances this season.
To duly keep that in perspective, getting in the play-offs starting on minus ten is a huge task.
Add to that virtually no pre-season because of turmoil at the club and having to learn on the hoof as you go and it gets a bit harder.
Add to that the inevitable consequence of a slow start and it gets harder still.
So the very fact that Saints got themselves in such a run of form that people were contemplating it as a possibility is a great credit and the fact some of those same people now think they won’t get there is nothing to be ashamed of.
It needs to be said that the biggest fear is the season drifting aimlessly out of control.
Saints won’t finish in the relegation zone but if they don’t mount a storming run of epic proportions it will also become clear by around February that they won’t make the play-offs either.
From a negative view if they were also to go out of Johnstone’s Paint Trophy before a Wembley final and not get beyond, say, the fourth round of the FA Cup then the season would effectively be over by February.
If that were the case then it will be hard to keep the momentum going, in terms of crowds turning up and even the team performing as well – and Saints need that momentum to take into next season, where they should get promoted.
But for now at least we should put all that on the backburner and bask in the glow of a great game of football that took place at St Mary’s on Saturday.
After Norwich had been allowed to boss possession by Saints, Pardew’s men took the lead with the first chance of the game on 11 minutes.
Wes Hoolahan danced past three Saints players to retain the ball but then inexplicably tried to pass it across the middle of the pitch where David Connolly happily intercepted.
Norwich centre half Gary Doherty was left in the abyss, not knowing whether to come out and close or backpeddle as fast as his legs would take him.
In the end a momentary hesitation left him hung out to dry and it was seized upon by Connolly who picked out Adam Lallana’s run superbly.
Lallana took the ball into his stride and buried in the bottom corner from just inside the area for 1-0.
The rest of the first half pulsed along with half chances at either end, one side getting on top for a spell, then the other.
It was a marker of the thrilling entertainment that was to come in the second period.
Norwich came out after the break fired up and levelled things on 54 minutes.
Chris Martin got down the left and cut into the box but, before he could cross, Lloyd James slid in and took him down and the referee awarded a penalty.
Hoolahan took it but saw Kelvin Davis’ fingertips turn it on to the post.
Fortunately for Hoolahan it hit the inside of the post and bounced straight back to him and he gratefully put it into the empty net.
Pardew responded by making an excellent tactical switch. He brought on Graeme Murty at right back and matched up Norwich’s diamond shaped midfield.
It worked a treat.
As the rain really belted down Saints regained their lead in some style.
Connolly looked to have little on when he collected the ball out on the left, but things opened up as he made his way across the box and out of nowhere from 25 yards he curled a right footed effort that bent into the far top corner leaving the keeper with no chance.
It was a wonderful goal.
For the remainder of the match it was half chance after half chance but only one side was able to turn that into a goal – Norwich.
On 75 minutes Saints had retreated too deep and it gave Martin the chance to shoot firmly from distance.
The ball shot up off the wet surface and Davis could only get his body behind it to block. Sadly for Saints, Stephen Hughes was the man most alert and got to the loose ball first to slide in the equaliser.
Both sides pushed for a winner but it wasn’t to be.
You can’t win them all and, if you don’t, then this is the way to do it.