Saints 4-1 Palace
Southampton beat, a much changed, Crystal Palace for the first time in three attempts in the 2015/16 season. The Eagles had already beaten the Saints at Selhurst Park, in the league, and at St Marys, in the FA Cup, but they would not make it a hat-trick of win as they did against Stoke last weekend.
Alan Pardew rested six of his regular starters, under the pretence of ‘slight knocks’ with next weekend’s FA Cup Final firmly in the forefront of his mind. Much to the anger of West Ham fans, Southampton took advantage, with the help of referee Michael Oliver and his team, and qualified for the Europa League at the expense of the Hammers. The former Southampton Gaffer, Pardew, bemoaned the decisions of the officials as a Graziano Pelle push on Adrian Mariappa went unpunished for the Saints’ second goal and the linesman decided to award a penalty when Pape Souare’s contact was clearly someway outside of the penalty area.
Before Pelle had doubled the hosts’ lead, heading home after pushing Mariappa, Saido Mane had taken advantage of a combination of poor defending and goalkeeping, to lob Ronald Koeman’s men into the lead just before the break. There was still time for Dwight Gayle to miss a golden chance before the referee sounded his whistle for the interval.
Sullay Kaikai replaced Jordon Mutch at half-time to become the second Academy Graduate to make his Premier League debut this season, joining Hiram Boateng who achieved the feat away at Swansea. The youngster had impressed on loan at Shrewsbury Town and did not look out of his place despite the huge step up in quality of opposition. Just before the Southampton second, Kaikai almost had a goal on his debut. A cross found him at the back post around ten yards out, his shot hit the ground and bounced up towards the top corner of the goal, but Forster flew across to his left to deny Kaikai the chance of matching the scoring start to his Palace career that he achieved last season in the League Cup.
Jason Puncheon pulled a goal back just two minutes after Pelle had made it 2-0. The former Saint picked up the ball on the edge of the area, cut onto his left and fired an unstoppable shot across Fraser Forster and into the far top corner.
Credit to Palace, they piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser but the carpet was pulled out from beneath their feet eleven minutes later. Mane’s pass got him in behind and a combination of Mariappa and Souare sent him tumbling into the penalty area. The penalty award was kind to say the least. Ryan Bertrand converted the spot kick and Palace threw in the towel.
James McArthur and, the already booked, Joel Ward were replaced and from that point only Southampton looked likely to add to the number of goals on the afternoon – as Steve Davis did three minutes from time.
388 Not Out?
Julian Speroni was granted his second start of the season and this pulled him level with John Jackson on 388 appearances – the most in the Club’s history for a goalkeeper.
Unfortunately it was not to be a memorable day for Jules on the field. Many people, myself included, have believed that he would ameliorate our goalkeeping situation, however, the opening goal exposed his only real flaw and gave momentum to the anti-Speroni camp. Either way, something needs to happen in the summer to resolve this ongoing crisis.
I refuse to end on a bad note on this huge day for the Legend – and Legend is what he is. Once again you could see what just representing the Football Club means to him. He did not shy away from a performance that saw him concede four goals. He came over, alone, at the end of the match to the Palace fans to applaud them. His efforts for our badge got beyond the odd mistake here and there. He has given us almost his entire career and fully deserves to break the record that is now so tantalisingly close.
Man of the Match: Sullay Kaikai
There was a lot of worry that the Premier League would see us overlook our Academy, which has previously been so kind to us with the likes of Ben Watson, Nathaniel Clyne and Wilfried Zaha. With Sullay making his debut, Boateng having done so earlier in the season and with Jake Gray and Luke Dreher both making the bench – it would appear that our fears are unfounded.
There is definitely still a lot of work to be done behind the scenes – getting them out of Goals above all. But there is still life in the old girl yet.
As I said above, Sullay did not look out of place in this match. His delivery was often exceptional and caused the home defence many problems and I could see Wickham thriving on his crosses next season. Further, he has the natural ability to get into goal scoring positions at the back post – something that Ian Holloway, Tony Pulis, Neil Warnock and now Pardew have all tried to drill into Zaha and Bolasie. If he connected with the ball slightly cleaner at 1-0, Forster would not have had a chance to save his effort.
The kid excites me. Here’s hoping he either gets a run in the first team next season, or delivers on loan at the top end of the Championship next year.
Up Next: Manchester United (FA Cup Final)
I still can’t quite believe that we are here. I have craved this moment for the 22 years that I have supported this head case of a Football Club, and now it is finally here!
Please let it be our year!
Come on you Palace!