Saints came from 1-0 down to secure a 2-1 win at Coventry today. The visitors were poor in the first half, but well and truly turned it around in the second. Nigel Adkins employed a diamond midfield at kick off, with Adam Lallana lining up in behind Ryan Doble. Saints got off to the worst possible start, conceding after just five minutes. The defence missed a number of opportunities to clear their lines before Gary McSheffrey volleyed home from close range. Saints were sloppy in possession, and looked suspect at the back, as Coventry carved out a number of good openings. Adkins switched to a 4-2-3-1, with Morgan Schneiderlin and Dean Hammond sitting behind Jack Cork, James-Ward Prowse and Lallana, who lined up right to left behind Doble. Saints improved slightly with the change, but were still largely disappointing. Dan Harding was given a great deal of space to make runs down the right, although his crosses were usually dealt with comfortably by the Coventry defence. Saints were lucky to go into the break just a goal down. At one point things got so bad that Jos Hooiveld and Aaron Martin became involved in an argument, after a miscommunication in the defence led to a chance for the home side.
Saints started the second half much brighter, and had a great opportunity to level the proceedings early on. James Ward-Prowse picked up Dan Harding's cross inside the area, but hesitated as the ball bounced and then scuffed his shot. The visitors enjoyed great spells of possession, but initially struggled to find that killer final ball. Saints improved with the introduction of Sam Hoskins, who had a role in the equalising goal. The 18 year old forward fed Lallana, who crossed for Ward-Prowse to tap in at the far post from close range. Nigel Adkins's men grew in confidence with the goal, and began to open up their opponents with greater regularity. Dan Harding had a long shot fly just wide on 64. Four minutes later Coventry had a decent chance to regain their lead, with Carl Baker's curling effort dipping just over the bar. On 72 minutes Saints brought on Ben Reeves for James-Ward Prowse, switching to a 4-4-1-1 formation. They continued to dominate, with chances from Hooiveld and Cork amongst others. The intense pressure finally paid off on 82 minutes when Aaron Martin headed in Danny Fox's corner. The ball squirmed past the keeper, before slowly bouncing over the line. Saints were in complete control of the game from that point on, and never looked in any danger of losing. The football was very pleasing on the eye; as good as it's been all season.
I think most would agree that the FA Cup isn't a big priority for us at the moment, but nevertheless, it's nice to have stopped the rot with a rare away win. Saints can also take a lot of positives from the excellent second half display. It was great to see so many young players being given a chance today. Players like Ward-Prowse are still raw, and don't yet have the tactical nous for regular first team action, but those skills will only be developed with experience. The cup competitions are the perfect testing ground. No doubt all involved with have grown in confidence as a result. Saints were up against it today with a completely new team, but showed great character in turning the game around in the second half.
Attendance: 9,000 (1,734 Saints fans)
Bialkowski: 5. Looked very shaky in the first half, and didn't communicate with his defence. Didn't have much to do after the break
Harding: 7. Saw a lot of the ball, making some great attacking runs down the right hand side.
Martin: 6. All over the place early on, not on the same page as his defensive partner Hooiveld. Made up for a bad first half with a good first goal.
Hooiveld: 6. Massively below par early on, but much improved in the second half.
Fox: 7. Fairly quiet game. Not really tested defensively, but comfortable on the ball. Provided the cross for Martin's goal.
Hammond: 7. One of the better players on the day, passing largely very good.
Schneiderlin: 6. Surprisingly sloppy on the ball early on, but back to his brilliant best by the end.
Cork: 7. A class act as always. A really skilful display on the right hand side in a much more advanced role.
Ward-Prowse: 6. Wasn't happening for him for much of the game, but credit for never shying away from the ball. Efforts rewarded with a good goal.
Lallana: 6. Very quiet early on, but put in a killer cross for the first goal.
Doble: 5. Decent first touch, but lack of movement and strength meant he struggled to get involved.
Hoskins: 6. A big upgrade on Doble. Movement and energy were excellent, chased down every ball and defended from the front.
Reeves: 6. Much improved today. Some great skill on show in the final stages of the game.
Stephens: Some decent touches from the 17 year old debutant, and a good low cross for Hoskins.