An away trip to Southampton was our reward for beating Dover Athletic in the third round of the FA Cup. I wasn’t jumping through hoops at that draw, but hey, on our day and all that.
After 22 games in the Premier League Southampton find themselves in third place boasting the meanest defence and the fourth best attack in the division, so the task couldn’t have been harder for us to reach the fifth round for the first time since 2010.
Both managers made changes as expected but as usual Southampton had over 60% of possession. They try to tempt you to come and chase the ball, and when you do they move it quickly to the edge of the 18 yard box where they are dangerous.
For the third game in a row we went behind but, in my opinion, once we find ourselves in a losing position we have produced our best football.
I thought Joel Ward played Eljero Elia very well and in midfield Joe Ledley and James McArthur both worked tirelessly defensively and offensively. The team has always had desire, work rate and endeavour but the manager wants better passing, more chances and more goals and it appears to be working.
Yaya Sanogo started his second game since his arrival from Arsenal on loan and he teamed up well with former Gunner Marouane Chamakh. Alan Pardew wants flair in the team and also on the bench, so with Dwight Gayle, Jason Puncheon and Glenn Murray to call upon if needed, we had something up our sleeve just in case.
With Frazier Campbell playing wide left I felt the team functioned well. Frazier did well to stop Nathaniel Clyne venturing forward as he did at Selhurst back on Boxing Day, and won his fair share of free kicks when moving forward.
Chamakh played 64 minutes on his comeback, scored two goals and was the best player on the pitch. At times I would like him to be a little more selfish around the box because if he can add more goals to his game he’d be one of the best number 10s in the Premier League. He worked Southampton’s back four and their holding midfielders so well, and along with Sanogo they caused problems going forward and defended from the front.
In our last three games we’ve scored eight goals and with the team looking dangerous going forward it's proof that Yannick Bolasie is not our only option offensively.
However once again we gifted our opponents two easy goals due to some slack marking for the first and Scott Dann kept up his love of scoring in the FA Cup, albeit in the wrong end, but he’s been a rock since he joined the club and makes very few mistakes so we’ll let him off that one.
A great fingertip save from birthday boy Wayne Hennessey towards the end of the match was a great bit of goalkeeping that avoided the need for a replay, and the fans, who once again were superb, quite rightly cheered the team off the field after we held on for a fine result.