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Southampton 0 Wigan Athletic 2
After three years of glory, the harsh realities of the place Saints have aspired to be since they last departed it back in 2005 were there for all to see.
A home defeat against Wigan in the first game back at St Mary’s in the Premier League was not exactly what the fans or the club had expected.
There were some worrying aspects to it, but for those people who seem to be losing their heads already the message should be ‘don’t panic’.
It is very early days for Saints in this top flight adventure, plenty of time to make up for any ground lost.
And for those who are lining up to have a pop at Nigel Adkins , having spent most of the last couple of years unwilling to consider he has even a single failing, wind your necks in.
Like the players he is also learning about this level.
You can read as many books as you want but nothing can prepare you for mixing it with the big boys in the cauldron of pressure that is every Premier League game.
But Adkins, like the players, has earned the right to be there.
He has masterminded the rise to this level and, though football is ruthless and sentiment thin on the ground, St Mary’s supporters of all people should recognise what he has done and keep the results of just two games into perspective.
He, like the players, deserves the chance to give it a go before people start casting judgement, so stick with him.
On the field Saints have not looked totally out of their depth, but still look short of what is required.
Some, such as Jos Hooiveld, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert , have been as impressive as expected, while others have not adapted quite so well.
But it’s also a collective problem that Saints have.
In their new formation, nominally 4- 3-3, they have so little attacking threat out wide.
Jay Rodriguez was bought as a £7m striker and doesn’t look comfortable on the left. It almost feels he has been shoehorned in there because of his cost.
Guly do Prado has looked similarly unthreatening on the right and, if, as Wigan did, they push the Saints full backs into reverse, then Saints are largely contained.
Ali Al-Habsi was the busier keeper, but aside from Hooiveld and Lambert headers, almost everything else he had to deal with was shots from outside the area. That shows Saints are not penetrating.
Wigan were well organised and confident, they were good on the ball and punished Saints every time they conceded possession – often by overplaying – by keeping it themselves.
But, with what they’ve got, Wigan are likely to struggle this season because it’s hard to see them scoring many goals. It is worrying then that they bagged two at St Mary’s.
The problem Saints have now is the next couple of fixtures.
They may be able to produce creditable performances against Manchester United and Arsenal, as they did at Manchester City, but turning them into wins is not easy.
At City the pressure was off as Saints were not expected to win. But failing to beat Wigan at home means they really need to get something tangible from those games.
To finish the first four games without at least three points on the board is going to make this season tough, no matter how cruel the early fixture list has been.
The transfer window remains open for another week though and Saints are sure to do business , let’s hope that allowing it happen so late doesn’t cost them in the final reckoning.
Lallana gave Saints fans reason for hope as his shot from 20 yards on 14 minutes forced Al-Habsi to turn the ball onto his bar and over, but that was about it for a first half which was somewhat of a stalemate.
Wigan emerged looking much more confident in the second period.
They had the look of a boxer who had soaked up what their opponent had offered and been buoyed by the sudden belief they can take whatever they have got. That makes them prepared to walk through attacks because they believe they can land themselves.
After soaking up just such an attack when Lambert’s header was saved low down by Al-Habsi, Wigan got in a telling blow on 51 minutes.
Some more attractive Wigan passing football ended with Shaun Maloney sliding the ball through to Franco Di Santo, who clinically blasted a shot past Kelvin Davis and into the roof of the net.
Al-Habsi was tested again by a long range drive from Danny Fox and another Lambert effort before Kelvin Davis saved from Jordi Gomez and Hooiveld headed against the top of the bar on 79 minutes.
Arouna Kone, a threat all day, had a chance to finish things but slid the ball wide at the far post before he made no mistake with a tougher opportunity near to the end.
He dispossessed Jose Fonte , who appealed for a foul that wasn’t given, and raced clear.
Faced with Kelvin Davis he produced a clinical low drive past the keeper, who went down to his right but had no chance of stopping the shot.
By that stage reality really had set in.
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