A game of two halves...

Posted by Chris Rann

First half. Defensive lapses, individual mistakes, collapse, you know the score, yadda yadda, yadda... HT Southampton 0 Spurs 2.

Emmanuel MayukaPA PhotosEmmanuel Mayuka could use his pace to replace Adam Lallana

Second half. Nigel Adkins must have walked into that dressing room, looked at his players, clocked the faces and wondered why this keeps happening. Spurs are a decent side, and I have to admit that I wasn't surprised by the half-time score, but had they been brilliant? Perhaps not.

Whatever Nigel said to the players (I like to think he recited one of his poems), it worked. The Saints that emerged from the dressing room for the second period looked like that of the previous two seasons. Dynamic, enthusiastic, bristling with confidence - and it is not over the top to say they made a highly talented Spurs side look incredibly ordinary.

Passing the ball around with panache, breaking Spurs down and looking like they might not only get back into the game but go on and win it. The introduction of Emmanuel Mayuka (though Jason Puncheon had done little wrong) was a masterstroke. The Zambian forward played on the right and created all sorts of problems for the Spurs back four. With pace and desire in abundance, Mayuka showed why many have been calling for him to have more game time.

The balance of power in the game had completely shifted when Jay Rodriguez netted his first Premier League goal, following up on Brad Friedal's save from a Jose Fonte flick. At this point it seemed that Saints would go on and win the game - this is exactly what would have happened in the Championship - but it was another stark reminder of the shift in quality in the top flight. Saints battled and battled, pouring forwards, but the Spurs defence held firm. You won't get a let off. A team like Spurs is not going to let you convert a 2-0 lead into a defeat.

The positives were there for all to see. I was starting to worry that Adkins may have lost the dressing room, but the Saints players were battling from the front in the second half, and their desire to win could not be questioned. They wanted it.

In summary, Saints had played a second half worthy of getting something from the game, but to no avail. The first-half performance was terrible and meant their second 45 minutes counted for nothing. This was a positive sign though and Adkins can channel this into his training sessions. Play like that at home and you will beat 14 of the teams in this division.

In tribute to Adkins, I thought I would write a little poem (haiku) of my own.

Better second half,

Cut out defensive errors,

Three points would be ours.

Keep the faith.


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