03/12/2011: Doncaster 1-0 Saints

Saints lost their second consecutive away game, going down 1-0 to Doncaster at the Keepmoat Stadium. The visitors put in one of their worst displays of the season against Dean Saunders's well organised side. Saints lined up with Morgan Schneiderlin playing in a much more advanced role, just off lone front-man Guly Do Prado, with Adam Lallana and Steve De Ridder out wide. The first half was pretty scrappy and lacking in quality. The home side made a bright start in the early stages, with Herita Ilunga heading narrowly wide after just two minutes. Moments later former Saint Simon Gillett had a long shot well saved by Kelvin Davis. The away side often looked to go long, with the full backs finding plenty of space in wide areas. Danny Fox in particular launched some great crossfield balls to Steve De Ridder. On 24 minutes Guly flicked the ball on for Schneiderlin, who attempted an audacious lob from 40 yards out. Not long after, Rovers broke on the counter and hit the post through Brian Stock. Schneirderlin had a great chance to break the deadlock on 32 minutes when Guly's brilliant defence splitting pass put him through one on one with Carl Ikeme, but the Frenchman had his shot pushed away by the Donny keeper. Rovers then had a great chance of their own from a corner, which was headed off the line by Guly. The Brazillian was in the thick of it again at the other end moments later, embarking on a long run on the left hand side, before firing a powerful shot that Ikeme just about managed to keep out.

Adkins switched to a 4-4-2 after the break, with De Ridder joining Guly up front. If anything the change made things worse however, as Saints created a lot less in the second half. On 58 minutes Guly worked his way past a couple of Doncaster defenders before firing across goal, where there was nobody to get on the end of it. Rovers then caught the visitors out on the counter. Marc-Antoine Fortune broke free down the right hand side before firing a low cross towards Billy Sharp, who took a touch before finishing past Davis. Saints continuously pushed forward in search of an equaliser, but failed to create any real clear cut chances, with Doncaster defending in numbers. Guly and De Ridder didn't really hit it off, so Lee Barnard and Lee Holmes were brought on to try and stretch the game. Nigel Adkins's men were still lacking in the final third however. Saints had a number of set pieces in threatening positions but failed to do anything with them. When Guly or Lallana got on the ball they were immediately surrounded by about three Doncaster defenders. Saints threw everyone forward for a free kick deep into stoppage time, but when that came to nothing the referee blew for full time.

A disappointing day for Southampton. Another away defeat and a lacklustre performance. It was always going to be difficult without the likes of Rickie Lambert and Richard Chaplow however. Recently I've written elsewhere on this website about how important Lambert and Chaplow are to the team, and we clearly missed them both today. Rickie in particular is a huge loss. The likes of Guly and De Ridder did well at times, but neither hold the ball up and bring others into the game like Lambert does. We lacked that focal point in attack without the former Bristol Rovers target man. Even David Connolly would have been useful to call on today. I thought the support from the travelling Saints fans was poor to be honest. Fair enough we weren't very good, but that still doesn't mean the fans should give up on the team just 10 minutes in when things aren't going right. There was little encouragement offered in the second half, with fans instead choosing to moan and berate our players. It seems expectations have risen to an incredibly high level, and some can't accept that this is a tough league, and we will slip up from time to time as everyone else in this division does. It's easy to forget this time last year we weren't even guaranteed a play-off spot in League One. The way some fans go on, you'd think we were bottom not top. It must also be said that Doncaster are much better than their league position suggests. Many of the players they had on show have only just arrived recently, in conjunction with Willie McKay's mysterious new role at the club. The likes of Fortune and Habib Beye have Premiership experience. The latter was particularly impressive, snuffing out any danger from the Saints attack. Having said all that our away form does need to improve. Believe it or not our away record was actually better at this stage in 2008 during our dreadful relegation season. We had more wins and points on the road under Jan Poortvliet, but obviously our home form was significantly worse. There's no better place to put things right than Fratton Park on December 18th then.

Attendance: 9,527 (1,792 Saints fans)

Match Ratings:

Davis: 7. Made some decent saves, and distribution was usually good.

Richardson: 6. Fairly solid defensively, but didn't have as much influence at the other end of the pitch that he usually does. Could have done better for the goal as well.

Fonte: 7. Rarely put a foot wrong all game. Tackles were always superbly timed.

Hooiveld: 7. Pretty solid defensively, although his passing was occasionaly wayward.

Fox: 6. Looked good early on with some good cross field balls, but struggled defensively as the game wore on. Set pieces were surprisingly poor.

De Ridder: 6. Looked bright in the first half, cutting inside from the wing. Much less effective in the second up front.

Hammond: 7. Did a fairly decent job, especially in the first half, sweeping up in front of the back four.

Cork: 6. Reasonably solid without being particularly spectacular. Passing was tidy.

Lallana: 6. Probably his quietest game of the season. The odd touch of class here and there, but not nearly as effective as you would expect.

Schneiderlin: 7. Linked up well with Guly in the first half, but saw less of the ball after the break

Guly: 7. The player who looked most likely to make something happen. Made some good runs, and passing/flicks also created space. Faded as the game went on however, and was ineffective in a crowded Doncaster penalty area.

Substitutes:

Holmes: 5. Briefly offered a bit more energy in attack, but his delivery was largely disappointing.

Barnard: 5. Only a handful of touches on the ball. Movement wasn't as good as you would expect. Still some way off the player who did so well last season.