Saints came crashing back down to earth today with a 2-0 home defeat to Wigan. The home side were taught a Premier League lesson by the Latics, who were superior in every department for much of the contest. Saints had started the game reasonably well, and probably just about shaded it in the first half hour. Nigel Adkins named the same formation that was utilised at City, but made two changes to the start line-up, with Steven Davis and Rickie Lambert coming in for James Ward-Prowse and Jason Puncheon. Guly Do Prado moved back to the right to make room for Lambert up front.
Saints looked to play the ball out patiently, while Wigan broke quickly. Adkins' men played some attractive football, but the visitors were slightly crisper in possession. Saints made a positive start, and enjoyed the better of the early chances. Adam Lallana came closest when his shot rattled the Wigan crossbar on 14 minutes. The midfield maestro create the chance from nothing, cutting inside before firing in an effort which didn't quite dip low enough to beat Latics keeper Ali Al-Habsi. Saints continued to pressurise, but Wigan defended resolutely and didn't allow for many openings.
After that initial flurry of entertainment, the game petered out slightly. Wigan gradually got to grips with the ball, and ended the first half on top. Saints defended well as a unit however, and managed to keep the visitors at bay. The best Wigan could muster up were a couple of blocked shots.
Saints were made to pay by ruthless Wigan, just seconds after creating a goal scoring chance of their own. Guly provided a pin-point cross for Lambert, who saw his header saved by Al-Habsi. From the resulting counter-attack Wigan took the lead. The diminutive Shaun Maloney put through a perfectly weighted ball straight into the path of Franco Di Santo, who blasted into the roof of the net.
Saints pushed forward with greater vigour and worked hard to create chances. Danny Fox connected with a perfectly struck volley on the edge of the area from a corner, which was brilliantly saved by Al-Habsi. Jos Hooiveld then came agonisingly close to finding a leveller. His dipping header clipped the crossbar before bouncing out of play.
Adkins' decision to switch to a 4-4-2 during the final quarter backfired. Wigan gained control of the football and dominated possession, killing the game off in the closing stages. Saints gave it everything, but looked to be running out of steam towards the end. Indeed it was the visitors who looked more likely to add to the scoring. Wigan's superior top flight experience really showed at the end. Errors from Saints were becoming more prevalent as the game wore on and that creative spark in the final third was lacking. Wigan made it 2-0 not long before the final whistle. Arouna Kone won the ball off a hesitant Jose Fonte, before slotting past Davis.
A big reality check following last week's heroics at City. Wigan gave us a reminder of what we are up against this season. Saints created enough chances to win, and conceded very few at the other end, but it still wasn't enough. Adkins' men might have gotten away with playing like that last season, but against the very best there can be very little room for error. The Saints boss admitted he got it wrong with the switch to 4-4-2, which left us outnumbered in the middle of the park. We were too predictable going forward and eventually ran out of ideas. Defensively we looked very strong at times, but that momentary loss of concentration cost us dearly in the end. Wigan were also very worthy opponents, and fully deserved their win. Sometimes you just have to admit the other team are better than you. The result and the Wigan performance shouldn't be much of a surprise, given their form at the back end of last season. They dispatched better teams than Saints in the closing months of 2011/12, so it would be unreasonable for us to expect an easy ride. They are not Premier League regulars for nothing. Obviously Saints need to get results against these sorts of teams if they want to stay up, but performances will surely improve given time. Remember this is a very young squad, who still have a lot to learn in terms of top flight football. Saints are certainly capable of rectifying their mistakes in future matches. There were enough positives in the game to give fans hope. It was a big learning curve for Saints, but not a disaster by any means. We've recovered from poor starts before, and there's no reason we can't again. Give it a few more weeks and a few new signings and we'll surely see a big improvement.
Davis: 7. A couple of superb saves in between both goals
Clyne: 7. Toughest game in a Saints shirt to date. Beaten once or twice by his opposite number, but overall fairly good. Some decent link-up play with Guly on the right
Fonte: 6. Acquitted himself well defensively until the blunder at the end. Distribution hit and miss
Hooiveld: 6. Looked slightly uneasy at the back. Unlucky not to score at the other end
Fox: 6. A bit of a mixed bag. Did some good things going forward, but also made some basic mistakes
Schneiderlin: 7. Superb in the opening half hour, but less influential as the game wore on
Davis: 6. Solid first start. Looked tidy in midfield
Lallana: 7. Looked the most likely to make something happen.
Guly: 7. One of Saints' better players. Provided some decent crosses and always made himself available. Faded slightly towards the end.
Rodriguez: 6. Some decent touches, but didn't really get involved in the game enough
Lambert: 6. Got himself in some decent positions, but his passing was surprisingly poor
Ward-Prowse: Muscled off the ball a couple of times, but decent in possesion
Sharp: Added a bit of energy to the side momentarily