West Ham 4-1 Saints
Saints fell to another disheartening Premier League defeat, going down 4-1 at West Ham. Nigel Adkinsí men played well at times, but were undone by more comical defending.
Adkins sprung a number of surprises in his team selection. Rickie Lambert was left on the bench, with Jay Rodriguez starting as the lone front-man. Saints lined up in a 4-2-3-1, with Nathaniel Clyne coming back in at right-back. Morgan Schneiderlin regularly drifted out to the right to help Clyne with the defensive work. Davis played through the middle, behind Puncheon, Lallana and Guly who lined up right to left.
Saints had much the better of the first half in terms of possession. The visitors were involved in some good passages of play, but failed to create too many openings. Rodriguez, Guly and Yoshida had long range efforts which were never going to trouble Jussi Jaaskelainen. Saints looked to play balls over the top to Rodriguez, who was invariably caught offside. West Ham took a more direct approach to the game, with Andy Carroll looking sluggish up-front on his own. Both sides had a number of set-pieces that were well defended.
Saints had actually defended reasonably well in the first period, but undid all that good work just minutes into the second. Mark Noble put West Ham 1-0 up on 46 minutes. His free-kick eluded the entire Saints defence before flying into the back of the net. Moments later it was 2-0. Yossi Benayoun intercepted the ball ahead of Yoshida, before cutting the ball across goal, Kevin Nolan eluded his marker to score a simple tap in. Fonte was caught ball-watching, allowing Nolan a free shot at goal. Saints regained control of the ball after the goal, and had much more joy going forward. Yoshida and Rodriguez had half chances, before Lallana pulled one back on 61 minutes. The Saints captain fired into the roof of the net after Rodriguez had won the ball from James Collins. At this point the momentum was very much with the away side. That was until Adkins brought on Lambert and Emmanuel Mayuka for Rodriguez and Puncheon. Fans had been calling for Lambertís introduction, but the change actually made little difference. Lambert did fire a free-kick just over the bar, but was otherwise very quiet. Saints went more direct, using Lambert as the main attacking outlet. This allowed West Ham to control possession and kill the game off. The Hammers barely gave their opponents a sniff in the final 20 minutes or so. On 72 minutes West Ham made it 3-1 when Fonte stupidly handled in the box, allowing Noble a simple finish from the spot. Modibo Maiga wrapped things up with a superb solo effort on 87 minutes.
It was the same old story for Saints. The team looked good in spells, but were also incredibly vulnerable at the back yet again. Much of the talk pre-match was about Adkins' decision to play Rodriguez in favour of Lambert, but that was largely irrelevant in the end. Both men were ineffective. Our problems were at the other end of the pitch. Things would have probably been slightly better if we had a recognised left-back playing, but the performance of our back-five was still unacceptable. Going forward we could have done with the creative spark of Gaston Ramirez. Our attacking players did reasonably well, but none of them possessed that extra bit of magic that unlocks defences. There were some positives. Steven Davis looked class yet again. He and Morgan Schneiderlin wouldn't look out of place in a top Premier League club. It was a day to forget, but there's still plenty of time to put things right.
West Ham: Jaaskelainen, Tomkins (Spence 88 ), Collins, Reid, McCartney, Noble, Diame (O'Neil 68 ), Benayoun, Nolan, Jarvis, Carroll (Maiga 82)
Saints: Boruc, Clyne, Hooiveld, Fonte, Yoshida, Schneiderlin, Davis (Ward-Prowse 89), Puncheon (Mayuka 65), Lallana, Guly, Rodriguez (Lambert 65)