Saints snatched a late equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Fulham to climb out of the bottom three. The end result was probably a fair reflection of the game. Saints edged it in the first half against a poor Fulham side. The visitors came back into it after the break, thanks in part to some suicidal defending. Jose Fonte popped up just before stoppage time to save the day.
Nigel Adkins had to make do without Gaston Ramirez and Nathaniel Clyne, with Jason Puncheon and Danny Fox coming in to the starting line-up. Jay Rodriguez continued to lead the line alongside Rickie Lambert. Morgan Schneiderlin made a welcome return in the holding role.
Saints made a bright start to the game, taking a fourth minute lead through Fonte. The Portuguese headed in from an Adam Lallana corner. Adkins' men pressed the Cottagers, preventing them from playing the ball out from the back. Fulham looked disjointed as a result. Both sides had a series of corners early in the game. Saints got bodies back in the box, defending well against the physical threat of Brede Hangeland and co. The home side suffered an early setback, when Frazer Richardson was stretchered off with a nasty looking injury. Maya Yoshida moved across to right-back, with substitute Jos Hooiveld coming into the middle alongside Fonte.
Both teams were extremely sloppy in possession throughout the first half. A better side than Fulham would have capitalised on our mistakes. Saints did have their moments, creating a few decent opportunities. On 17 minutes Lambert fired just wide following good work from Fox, Lallana and Rodriguez. Moments later Puncheon had a goal disallowed for a foul on Fulham keeper Mark Schwarzer. On 24 minutes Saints put together a fine move, with Lallana pulling the ball across goal. Steven Davis arrived just too late however, with John Arne Riise clearing before the Northern Irishman could make contact with the ball. Fulham came into the game slightly just before the break, but rarely troubled Paulo Gazzaniga. Saints were far from perfect in the first half, but deserved to be in front.
Saints looked strong immediately after the re-start, with Rickie Lambert missing a good early chance, following good work from Schneiderlin on the right-wing. Fulham soon took control however, with a number of Saints players tiring. The back four looked nervy throughout, defending far too deep, inviting pressure. Fulham really cranked up the pressure on the hour mark. The Cottagers controlled possession, finding gaps all over the pitch against an incohesive opponent. Saints couldn't get near them at times. Gazzaniga brilliantly kept out a Hugo Rodallega header from point-blank range. The inevitable equaliser eventually arrived on 69 minutes. Riise's powerful effort was smashed across goal, into the path of Hooiveld, who sliced the ball into his own net. Fulham looked the more likely after that. Saints saw a bit more of the ball, but were far too predictable in the final third. It was no great shock when the visitors took the lead on 88 minutes, with Kieron Richardson netting from close range. Saints levelled just two minutes later, with Fonte getting his head on the end of Fox's free-kick. The home side played with much more urgency during stoppage time, pushing for a winner that never arrived. Guly curled an effort just past the post before the final whistle. You get the feeling Saints would have won had the game gone on for a few more minutes; the momentum was very much with us at that point.
A bit of a strange game. Saints were poor at times, but still looked reasonably comfortable in the first half. Fulham then took control and it looked as if there was no way back. The overall team display was very disappointing, but there were extenuating circumstances. Saints were missing two of their most important players in Clyne and Ramirez. It's impossible to say what would have happened if they had played, but you get the feeling the addition of Ramirez would have helped us to kill the game off. Clyne would have also improved the back-line. The same could be said of Richardson. Yoshida just isn't a right back, and substitute Hooiveld had a shocker. Had Richardson remained fit Yoshida would have stayed in the middle and we would still have a proper right-back on the pitch. Adkins got some stick for taking off Lambert for Guly, but in truth the Saints number seven was a disappointment and made little impact on the game. Perhaps the only surprise was that Rodriguez didn't make way instead. Fans have pointed the finger at the back four, but we need to defend much better as a team. The U18's showed how it was done yesterday against Manchester United. The Academy lads were perfectly drilled, moving back and forth as a unit. They were protected brilliantly by the midfield. Morgan Schneiderlin does a great job sitting in front of the back four, but he could do with more help. As brilliant as Adam Lallana is, he doesn't offer much in the way of defensive cover for Fox. It's all something for Adkins to bear in mind over the international break. When Saints are at full strength they are capable of giving anyone a game. We don't have the depth to cope with major losses. Given the circumstances, a point was acceptable today.
Attendance: 28,004 (2,499 Fulham fans)
Gazzaniga: 7. Made one absolutely outstanding save in the second half. Punching was decent- batted away a few corners.
Richardson: Very unfortunate to go off so early on. Saints were definitely weaker in his absence
Fonte: 7. Distribution could have been better, but defensive work a lot more impressive than the rest of the back four. His two goals got us out of jail
Yoshida: 5. Looked very uncomfortable at right-back. Passing was poor. Gave the ball away too many times
Fox: 6. Started the game off well, and his delivery was generally decent. Defensively a bit suspect. Didn't get much support on the left to be fair.
Schneiderlin: 8. A few rash challenges, but overall top-notch. Strong in midfield, shielded the ball well, and helped to win back possession on a number of occasions. Great to have him back.
Davis: 7. Started off very well, spreading the ball about to great effect. Faded slightly in the second half, but on the whole, fairly solid.
Puncheon: 7. Worked hard up and down the line, creating a few good openings. Unlucky to be substituted so early
Lallana: 6. Bright in spells, but extremely quiet at times too. Set up the opening goal, but could have done a little more defensively
Rodriguez: 6. Some decent movement and link up play, but disappointing end product
Lambert: 6. An off day for the free-scoring centre forward. Passing and finishing well below the level you would expect
Hooiveld: 5. Looked shaky throughout. Not one of his better days
Chaplow: 6. Did some decent defensive work on the right
Guly: 6. Much more effective than Lambert had been. Caused a few problems in and around the penalty area