02/01/2012: Brighton 3-0 Saints

Saints crashed to their second consecutive defeat today, going down 3-0 at Brighton. The game was similar to the reverse fixture at St Marys, in that Nigel Adkins's team dominated possession in the first half, against a Brighton team who sat back and defended well. Saints took control of that match when Albion had a player sent off, but this time it was Gus Poyet's men that made the most of their one man advantage. The visitors were on top from the opening stages of the game, although it was Brighton who had the first major chance. Aaron Martin needlessly gave away a free kick near the corner flag with a rash challenge, which lead to a goalmouth scramble inside the Southampton penalty area. The hosts had their best opening of the first half on 20 minutes when Steve Cook smashed his shot narrowly wide of the post. Saints then put together one of the best passing sequences of the game. Guly started and finished the move, scooping the ball over the bar from Jack Cork's pass. Saints adopted a patient passing game, although they took a while to find any clear openings. On 40 minutes Adam Lallana had a shot blocked on the line by Cook, with replay's apparently suggesting the ball had actually crossed the line. Just moments earlier Dan Harding had to be substituted for Danny Fox. Harding had picked up a yellow card earlier in the half, with Brighton players attempting every trick in the book to try and get him sent off.

Saints started the second half well, and had a couple of penalty shouts turned down after Rickie Lambert had his shirt pulled in the area. Lambert's frustrations got the better of him, as he pushed Adam El-Abd, who subsequently went down like he had been shot. I didn't get a clear view of the incident from my seat, so it's difficult for me to comment on the decision without seeing a replay. I will say however that Andy D'Urso had his back turned for much of the incident, and would have only seen it very late, if at all. He seemed to be influenced by El-Abd's reaction more than anything else. Brighton took control of the game from that point and really made use of their one man advantage. Saints brought on Jonathan Forte for the injured Guly, with David Connolly playing just behind the lone striker. The Seagulls constant pressure finally paid off on 66 minutes. Kelvin Davis could only fumble Kazenga Lua Lua's shot, before Jake Forster-Caskey tapped in the rebound. Saints worked hard, but offered little threat going forward. On 76 minutes Matt Sparrow made it 2-0 with an unstoppable 25 yard screamer. Shortly after that Saints had a great chance to get back into it when Frazer Richardson whipped in a dangerous cross, which was completely missed by substitute Ben Reeves. The ball then found its way to Cork, who fired over from close range, when he really should have scored. Brighton wrapped up the game on 86 minutes when Sparrow added his second from a goalmouth scramble. The home side then had Gordon Greer sent off for striking Forte. Saints looked slightly better in the closing stages, but by that point it didn't matter.

A very frustrating afternoon. Saints put on their best away performance in months in the first half, and looked to be heading towards a positive result, until the game changing red card. You certainly couldn't fault the players for effort today. Any side would struggle with the long list of injuries and suspensions we have at the moment. We had to do without Jose Fonte, Richard Chaplow, Morgan Schneiderlin and Steve De Ridder today, key players who could have made a difference. Lambert will now be out for three games, and Guly could be too. Some of the players we had to bring in as replacements just aren't on the same level as those who are missing. We are more than a match for anyone with a fully fit squad, but today proved that one or two extra faces wouldn't go amiss. The referee certainly didn't help us in this one either. Every big decision went against us today, summing up our luck recently.

Attendance: 20,773 (2,422 Saints fans)

Match Ratings:

Davis: 6. Made an absolute world class fingertip save in the second half, but could have possibly done a bit better with the first goal. Distribution was decent- good to see him playing the ball out from the back

Richardson: 6. Worked hard, and put in some decent crosses.

Martin: 6. Got caught out of position a couple of times. Made some decent headed clearances in the second half when Brighton powered forward.

Hooiveld: 7. Passing was occasionally a bit wayward, but defensively sound as usual.

Harding: 6. Looked solid enough, but had to be subbed because he looked to be on his way to a red card.

Hammond: 8. Key to an excellent first half display. Sat just in front of the back four, starting attacks. Always making himself available for a pass.

Cork: 7. Passing was very good, especially in the first half, but really should have buried his second half chance.

Lallana: 6. Involved in some good link up play in the first half, but faded in the second after Saints went down to 10

Connolly: 7. Really put himself about and worked hard. Looked decent throughout the game.

Guly: 6. Mostly kept in simple in possession in the first half, but did also put in a couple decent crosses. Ineffective in the second half after suffering an injury.

Lambert: 5. Seemed slightly out of sync with the rest of the team before his red card. Received no protection from the referee against players who continually held him back.

Substitutes:

Fox: 7. Looked comfortable on the ball, with some decent passing

Forte: 5. Ran around a lot, but struggled to get involved as he was isolated up front.

Reeves: 5. Looked out of his depth.