27/07/2011: Saints 2-2 West Brom

Saints held an under strength West Brom to a 2-2 draw in an entertaining clash. Nigel Adkins can take plenty of positives from the game, with new signings Jack Cork and Steve De Ridder looking particularly impressive. Saints had the better of the first half, playing a patient passing game. Adam Lallana came close to scoring early on when his volley dipped just over the bar. Lallana later provided the corner which led to a goal mouth scramble that saw West Brom clear off the line. Despite protests from both Saints players and fans, the ball clearly hadn't crossed the line. The visitors improved as the half went on, with striker Ishmael Miller providing the biggest threat. Miller shot narrowly wide not long before the break, and also had a close range strike well saved by Bartosz Bialkowski. Alex Chamberlain was forced off injured on 43 minutes after a challenge with Joe Mattock. He was replaced by new boy Steve De Ridder, who received a warm welcome from the crowd.

De Ridder made an instant impact in the second half when he set up Guly for a shot that went out for a corner in the opening minute. The Belgian was a constant threat down the right, and caused the opposition all sorts of problems with his expert skill and trickery. West Brom took the lead on 60 minutes when Bialkowski let a Marek Cech cross slip through his fingertips, allowing Simon Cox a simple tap in. The Baggies grew in confidence after the goal, and were more comfortable in possession than they had been previously. Things changed on 71 minutes however, when Jack Cork headed home from a Dan Harding free kick to level the score. West Brom quickly restored their one goal advantage when Cox's low drive beat sub keeper Kelvin Davies. Saints pushed hard for an equaliser and eventually got it when Rickie Lambert headed in from a Danny Butterfield cross. Both sides chased a winner in the closing stages, with the best chance falling to West Brom's Mark-Antoine Fortune, who hit the post. The game finished 2-2, which was a fair result on balance.

Nigel Adkins should be very pleased with his team's performance tonight. Although West Brom were missing several big names, the side they put out would still be very competitive at Championship level, making them ideal opponents for us to test ourselves against. As mentioned above, it was the two new boys De Ridder and Cork who most people were talking about after the final whistle. It's not hard to see why we signed De Ridder. His playing style is very similar to both Alex Chamberlain and Adam Lallana, so I've no doubt he'll fit right in. We know full well what Cork is capable of after his previous spell at the club in 2008, and the former Burnley man looks even better now. He adds another option in midfield. I think it's also worth mentioning Dan Seaborne's performance tonight. The defender isn't everyone's cup of tea, but he is showing signs of improvement and looked much more assured at the back than he has done previously. Bart Bialkowski won't be too pleased with his mistake tonight. Many fans believe the young Pole should be first choice ahead of Kelvin Davis, but he didn't do his cause any favours tonight. Despite some good attacking play, Adkins can't have been too pleased at how easily West Brom opened us up for the second goal however.

Attendance: 7,038

Match Ratings: Bialkowski 5 (Davis), Richardson 6 (Butterfield), Fonte 7, Seaborne 7, Harding 6 (Martin), Chamberlain 6 (De Ridder 7), Hammond 5 (Cork 7), Chaplow 6 (Schneiderlin 6), Lallana 6, Connolly 6, Guly 6 (Lambert 6)