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Norwich City 0 Southampton 2
in 09-10 Season
CONSISTENT results against League One’s average sides will make the difference between top six finishes or not.
But a true test of Saints as a team comes when they play one of the division’s top teams.
We have spoken in recent weeks of Saints’ stuttering league form as they have faced some fairly average sides.
Saints have not lost many games but they have drawn a lot, particularly on the road.
These are games that have been akin to cup matches.
The opposition has raised their game to face Saints, working themselves into the ground, fighting and battling and making it hard for them to be beaten.
Saints thoroughly deserved this win.They were in control for the majority of the match and the sending off, though harsh, was not a game changer.They needed a win and they got it at the toughest place to go right now – that speaks for itself.Adam leitch
They won’t go toe-to-toe with Saints as a footballing force, knowing the likelihood is that they will come off second best.
That makes life very difficult for Saints and they have found it tough going, struggling to play their natural game.
To be able to get out of this division you need to overcome that type of problem.
That is something Saints will need to get to grips with, and with the quality and character of players they have it’s hard to imagine they won’t.
But to see where Saints are in the grand scheme of things you have to see them up against a team who are prepared to go toe-to-toe with them.
There aren’t many in League One – probably only the big boys of Leeds, Charlton and Norwich.
When Saints face those sides, who could all probably hold their own at a level above, you get a true overall picture of where they are.
When Saints faced Leeds last December they were found slightly wanting.
In their two previous matches against Norwich they did manage draws, but both of those results were at St Mary’s.
On Saturday they faced Norwich, on fantastic form with 12 wins and a draw in their previous 14 league games, at Carrow Road.
But Saints now had their full squad, post transfer window and with cup tied players back.
This was a chance to see where Saints are. The verdict was pretty impressive.
After a slow start to the game for both sides, Saints grabbed a hold of the game midway through the first half and never let it go.
They were dominant in most areas, bossed possession and stamped their authority all over Norwich.
Saints went to the backyard of the leaders and made Norwich play the game the way they wanted it to be played.
You can’t get a much more emphatic statement as a team than that.
It is a major boost to Saints and particularly Alan Pardew, the man who has assembled this side.
Initially the game against Norwich was pretty dull.
Saints were playing a direct game with their hosts defending the sun, but there was not much doing for either side.
When Saints mixed up their play they got well on top.
The big question was whether they would take a chance during this period or let them slip by and end up paying the price, as we have seen so often in recent weeks.
It had that feel to it at first as Jason Puncheon fired wide from 12 yards out after Dan Harding’s cross was half cleared.
Lee Barnard sliced a half volley over the bar before putting in a header that Fraser Forster fielded with relative ease.
The Norwich keeper then scrambled through a melee to collect Dean Hammond’s header from a corner.
But just as you felt it might be another one of those days, Saints grabbed the lead.
Rickie Lambert struck a fiercesome 30-yard free-kick that rattled the underside of the bar, bounced down and out.
The linesman indicated that the ball hadn’t crossed the line, but Barnard wasn’t hanging around and headed the ball into the net TO THE RESCUE!
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with Norwich claiming he gained a yard by pushing defender Michael Nelson.
Saints were always going to get a Norwich backlash in the second period, but they handled it well and ultimately gave more than they got.
Kelvin Davis made a good stop low to his left from Nelson’s effort from just outside the area before springing a counter attack.
Barnard picked out Puncheon who was clean through but, in trying to round Forster, he just allowed the keeper to get a hand to the ball and knock it away.
Davis then dived full length to tip Korey Smith’s deflected shot onto the bar.
Saints were looking good for the win, regardless, but were given a boost when Norwich were reduced to ten men on 64 minutes.
Darel Russell went for a ball with his foot slightly high, Morgan Schneiderlin came in from the side and was caught in the chest.
It looked like just a plain, ordinary free kick.
Amazingly referee Russell Booth produced a red card.
Adam Lallana twice came close to sealing the win as he struck the same post inside a minute.
The first effort he should have done better with, Jon Otsemobor finding him with space to pick his spot but his effort clipped the outside of the upright.
The second was just unlucky as a lovely shot across goal beat Forster but hit the inside of the post this time and came out.
But Saints weren’t to be denied on 77 minutes when Puncheon got to the right by-line and cut the ball back to Barnard who side footed home first time.
It was perhaps inevitable Barnard was the star with so much pre-match attention focussed on Lambert and Grant Holt.
Those two strikers have 49 goals between them this season, but they were both kept quiet.
But Barnard, who hadn’t scored since Boxing Day, was allowed the space to operate in.
And he fired Saints to a victory that proves that they can cut it against the best teams in the third tier.