Timely Saints win consolidates top half position

Posted by Chris Rann

 Adam LallanaGettyImagesSouthampton's Adam Lallana celebrates scoring his team's opening goal against West Brom.

Saints' 1-0 victory over West Brom on Saturday is unlikely to go down as a classic but, in terms of the timing, it was an important three points for the home side.

I like to look at statistics after a game, some people don't think they are relevant and that the only stat of note is the final score. To a point they are right, but statistics often give a better reflection of the balance of play, and this game was no exception.

If you hadn't seen the game and didn't know the score, you would look at the numbers from this match and assume that it was a comfortable Southampton victory, and that is becoming a common theme for the Saints. 62 percent possession and 18 shots, with only four from the visitors would suggest a one-sided affair, and highlights that yet again Saints lacked the clinical edge that would reward their dominance.

Saints' build-up play was superb, but at times it looked like when they got into the opposition 18-yard box they had no idea how to make an opening. The final ball from everyone in a Saints shirt was lacking, often trying to do the difficult when the simple would do. It was a frustrating experience as the side often got themselves in a position to cross the ball, but chose to try and walk it into the box with trickery instead. West Brom imposed themselves defensively and ensure that this tactic was unlikely to be fruitful.

Saints have the players to pull the trickery off, but that doesn't mean that every goal has to come from a flurry of intricate flicks and passes, occasionally they could just cross the ball for the likes of Rickie Lambert to attack.

The current team have become one of 'those' teams now: where the visitors will setup to frustrate them and hold on to a point for as long as they can (a form of flattery I'm sure.) West Brom did just that, with goalkeeper Ben Foster time wasting on his goal kicks from as early as the first 10 minutes. This was odd from a team that completely outplayed Saints in both fixtures last season.

Southampton needed three moments of brilliance to claim a well deserved three points. The first came in the form of a tactical decision. Mauricio Pochettino earning his money with the decision to replace the defensive minded Jack Cork with the vision of Gaston Ramirez. The second was Ramirez himself, playing a fantastic pass, splitting open the West Brom central pairing and allowing Adam Lallana to apply the finish (Many Happy Returns to Adam's mum!) and the third was the save at the death by Artur Boruc from Shane Long.

Boruc was making his eagerly awaited return from injury and, after 89 minutes of twiddling his thumbs, showed exactly why he has been missed, spreading himself and denying Long from point blank range. When Boruc conceded the bizarre wind assisted goal at Stoke earlier in the season he promised he would get those lost two points back. Consider the balance settled.

The timing of this victory can not be understated. With the teams in the vicinity just below Saints all losing, it meant the club extended the gap between them and the bottom half. It is unnatural for a Saints fan, but perhaps they can start only worrying about what is above them and not below.

Keep the faith.


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