11/04/2015: Saints 2-0 Hull
Saints moved up to 5th with an important win against Hull. Ronald Koeman's side were largely poor in the first-half, and passable in the second. The visitors didn't have enough quality to take advantage of Saints' slack play.
The complexion of the game might have been completely altered had Shane Long taken a very early chance. The Irishman latched on to a through ball, but ended up running it out of play. Saints were very lackadaisical in possession early on. Dame N'Doye nearly took advantage for Hull with his pace up-front. Sone Aluko also had a few early chances.
Saints did improve slightly later in the half as they attempted to slow the tempo, but still struggled to maintain any fluency. The home side did defend well as a unit, getting numbers back to prevent Hull breaking through. On 20 Graziano Pelle had a low shot saved by Steve Harper after good work from Long. At the other end Aluko shot wide from distance. Stephen Quinn's weak effort on 32 was easy for Kelvin Davis to deal with.
Koeman made a much needed change at half-time, with James Ward-Prowse coming on to replace Victor Wanyama. Saints' improvement was gradual. The home side were still making basic errors on occasion. On 53 Davis got down low to save well from Jake Livermore. That was a real turning point. Just over a minute later Saints had a penalty. Alex Bruce needlessly hacked down Long. Ward-Prowse eventually stepped up ahead of Sadio Mane and planted his spot-kick into the corner of the net.
Hull had a couple of set-piece opportunities not long after the goal. Ryan Bertrand cleared off the line from a corner on the hour. On 67 N'Doye couldn't quite get on the end of a deep cross. Saints looked fairly comfortable during the last 15 minutes, with substitute Dusan Tadic giving the team a bit more creativity. The hosts put the game to bed on 81. Morgan Schneiderlin broke into the box before squaring it to Pelle, who neatly finished past Harper. Steven Davis missed a great chance to add a third on 89, firing over the bar inside the area.
A pleasing win in the end, but a disappointing display. The long season looks to be really taking its toll at the moment. A number of players were well below their best, particularly at the start of the game. On the plus side it was extremely pleasing to see Pelle and Ward-Prowse get their names on the score-sheet. Pelle has been slowly improving recently and his confidence should be boosted as a result of the goal. Ward-Prowse has been getting closer and closer all season. So much of his play has improved this campaign. If he can add goals to his repertoire then his stature and influence within the team will only grow.
K Davis: 7. Made a couple of good saves. Always alert to danger
Alderweireld: 6. A slow start. Didn't offer the attacking dynamism that Clyne gives you, but made some good cross-field passes
Fonte: 7. One of the few players who performed well throughout. Some big sliding tackles
Yoshida: 6. Took a while to get used to the pace of the game, but some good defensive work in the second half
Bertrand: 6. Another player who didn't get going until later in the match. Made a vital goal-line clearance
Schneiderlin: 6. Sloppy in possession at times, but some good claiming back. Involved in the 2nd goal
Wanyama: 5. Well below his best before coming off at half-time. Uncharacteristically weak. Now suspended for two games after picking up what appeared to be a harsh booking
S Davis: 6. Didn't see enough of the ball early on, but a few really good moments
Mane: 5. Had a bit of an off-day. A couple of positive runs, but overall didn't use the ball well enough
Long: 6. Lively in spells. Created some openings with some energetic runs out wide
Pelle: 7. Deserved his goal. A decent presence in the air and some good movement
Ward-Prowse: 7. Scored his long awaited second senior goal for Saints and put in an all-round decent showing
Tadic: 7. Looked very lively. Perhaps Saints' most effective attacking outlet in the second half
Elia: 5. Unlucky not to see a few promising moves come off
Saints - Ward-Prowse (56) Pelle (81)
Attendance - 30,359 (811 Hull fans)
Referee - Kevin Friend
Saints: K Davis, Alderweireld, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand, Schneiderlin, Wanyama (Ward-Prowse 46), S Davis, Mane (Tadic 61), Long (Elia 74), Pelle
Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Clyne, Targett, Reed
Hull: Harper, Chester (Diame 64), Dawson, Bruce, McShane, Elmohamady, Livermore, Huddlestone (Sagbo 74), Quinn, N'Doye, Aluko (Hernandez 84)
Subs not used: McGregor, Rosenior, Robertson, Brady