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18/04/2015: Stoke 2-1 Saints

Saints' disappointing recent away form continued at The Britannia Stadium with a defeat to Stoke. The game was fairly evenly matched. Saints played ok, but eventually came up short against a more ruthless home side.

Ronald Koeman put Toby Alderweireld in the holding midfield role in the absence of the suspended Victor Wanyama. Dusan Tadic came in on the left, with Sadio Mane starting up front just behind Graziano Pelle. Nathaniel Clyne was restored to the starting line-up too.

The first 15 minutes were fairly evenly-matched. Both sides competed well in the middle of the park without really penetrating going forward. Stoke had a couple of half-chances during this time, using their physicality to good effect. Jose Fonte and Steven Davis were nudged off the ball, but weren't made to pay.

On 17 Pelle fired into the side netting at the near post following good work from Mane. 5 minutes later Saints were ahead. Fonte headed towards the back post from a corner. The ball looked to be heading in, but Morgan Schneiderlin was there to add the final touch just to make sure. Immediately after the goal Marko Arnautovic's free-kick went just over the bar.

Saints enjoyed greater control of the game once they were ahead. The visitors were content to maintain possession and wait patiently for opportunities to arrive. On 31 Pelle shot tamely at Begovic following a good counter. Clyne then skied over the bar from Mane's through ball. Stoke almost got back into it just before half-time, only for Steven N'Zonzi to miss an absolute sitter from a free-kick.

N'Zonzi didn't have to wait long to atone for that miss. His 47th minute shot came back off the crossbar. Kelvin Davis appeared to misjudge the flight of the ball. The Saints keeper thought it was heading over, and could do nothing to stop Mame Diouf blasting in on the rebound.

Saints struggled to regain their composure after the equaliser. On 55 Schneiderlin flicked the ball on from a corner, but nobody was there on the end to follow up. Similarly, Bertrand's fizzing cross evaded everyone. Saints' best chance to regain the lead came on 63. Mane beat Asmir Begovic to the ball on the right. Tadic then picked it up in the box, but saw his effort cleared off the line. It would have been very reminiscent of his strike at Old Trafford had it gone in.

The game petered out a bit during the last 25 minutes or so. Substitute James Ward-Prowse put in a few tricky set-pieces, but Stoke stood firm. A bore draw looked the most likely outcome until the 84th minute. Arnautovic had a shot blocked in the area, before Charlie Adam fired a low shot through a block of players and into the back of the net. Saints threw caution to the wind during the last few minutes by bringing on Shane Long and Eljero Elia. Koeman's side were running on empty by that point, however. They created nothing. With so many attacking players on the field Saints inevitably left gaps at the back. A Maya Yoshida slip nearly let Stoke in for a third in stoppage time. To make matters worse Alderweireld was stretchered off, leaving Saints playing with 10 men for the last couple of minutes of stoppage time.

Saints were slightly unfortunate to lose. Koeman's side put in a reasonable effort, but were undone by a couple of defensive errors, and ran out of steam towards the end. As noted in last week's report, the long season looks to be having an effect on the team. A number of players look burnt-out. Saints are in with a great shout of qualifying for the Europa League, but the excitement has been tempered slightly recently. Hopefully the team can pull one or two big performances out between now and 24th May to end the season on a high.

Player Ratings

K Davis: 5. Caught by surprise for the first Stoke goal. Didn't have too many saves to make

Clyne: 7. Competed aggressively in the tackle until his booking. Made some decent runs down the right flank

Fonte: 7. Threw himself in the way of danger and made some good sliding tackles

Yoshida: 6. A few slack pieces of play, but generally well positioned

Bertrand: 7. Calmness personified once again. Stood up well at the back and put in some good crosses at the other end

Alderweireld: 7. Looked good at both ends of the pitch. Won plenty of duels and showed skill on the ball. Nasty looking injury a worry

Schneiderlin: 7. Made a slightly slow start, but very strong after the goal. Spread the ball about well and provided cover for the defence

S Davis: 5. Hesitant on the ball at times. Kind of just there

Tadic: 6. A bit isolated on the left. Involved in a few good attacking moves

Mane: 7. Tracked back well, putting in plenty of good defensive work. Created some openings at the other end too with some sharp passing. Less effective later in the game

Pelle: 6. Offered a presence up front on occasions, with some decent lay-offs

Substitutes

Ward-Prowse: 6. Made a bit of a difference, passing the ball about well

Long: Didn't do too much

Elia: A few decent touches, but didn't really have time to contribute in the final third

Match Details

Stoke - Diouf (47) Adam (84)

Saints - Schneiderlin (22)

Attendance - 26,467 (1,830 Saints fans)

Referee - Mark Clattenburg

Line-ups

Stoke: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross, Wollscheid, Pieters, Whelan (Sidwell 76), N'Zonzi, Walters, Ireland (Adam 46), Arnautovic, Diouf (Crouch 76)

Subs not used: Butland, Bardsley, Wilson, Teixeira

Saints: K Davis, Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Bertrand (Long 86), Alderweireld, Schneiderlin, S Davis (Elia 86), Tadic (Ward-Prowse 67), Mane, Pelle

Subs not used: Gazzaniga, Gardos, Targett, Reed

Previous Match Reports

11/04/2015: Saints 2-0 Hull
04/04/2015: Everton 1-0 Saints
21/03/2015: Saints 2-0 Burnley
16/03/2015: Saints U21s 2-0 Liverpool U21s
15/03/2015: Chelsea 1-1 Saints
05/03/2015: Saints U21s 4-2 Derby U21s
03/03/2015: Saints 1-0 Crystal Palace
28/02/2015: West Brom 1-0 Saints
23/02/2015: Saints U21s 0-0 Tottenham U21s
22/02/2015: Saints 0-2 Liverpool
12/02/2015: Saints U21s 3-2 Watford U21s
11/02/2015: Saints 0-0 West Ham
07/02/2015: QPR 0-1 Saints
01/02/2015: Saints 0-1 Swansea
24/01/2015: Saints 2-3 Crystal Palace
17/01/2015: Newcastle 1-2 Saints
15/01/2015: Saints U21s 2-0 Norwich U21s
14/01/2015: Ipswich 0-1 Saints
12/01/2015: Fulham U21s 1-2 Saints U21s
11/01/2015: Man United 0-1 Saints
04/01/2015: Saints 1-1 Ipswich
01/01/2015: Saints 2-0 Arsenal
28/12/2014: Saints 1-1 Chelsea
26/12/2014: Crystal Palace 1-3 Saints
20/12/2014: Saints 3-0 Everton
16/12/2014: Sheffield United 1-0 Saints
13/12/2014: Burnley 1-0 Saints
09/12/2014: Saints U18s 2-1 West Ham U18s
08/12/2014: Saints 1-2 Man United
03/12/2014: Arsenal 1-0 Saints
01/12/2014: Saints U21s 1-0 Man United U21s
30/11/2014: Saints 0-3 Man City
24/11/2014: Aston Villa 1-1 Saints
08/11/2014: Saints 2-0 Leicester
01/11/2014: Hull 0-1 Saints
29/10/2014: Stoke 2-3 Saints
25/10/2014: Saints 1-0 Stoke
18/10/2014: Saints 8-0 Sunderland
05/10/2014: Tottenham 1-0 Saints
29/09/2014: Saints U21s 2-0 Norwich U21s
27/09/2014: Saints 2-1 QPR
23/09/2014: Arsenal 1-2 Saints
20/09/2014: Swansea 0-1 Saints
13/09/2014: Saints 4-0 Newcastle
12/09/2014: Tottenham U21s 3-2 Saints U21s
30/08/2014: West Ham 1-3 Saints
26/08/2014: Millwall 0-2 Saints
23/08/2014: Saints 0-0 West Brom
22/08/2014: West Ham U21s 1-2 Saints U21s
17/08/2014: Liverpool 2-1 Saints
09/08/2014: Saints 0-1 Bayer Leverkusen
31/07/2014: Brighton 1-3 Saints
25/07/2014: Bournemouth 0-1 Saints
21/07/2014: Swindon 0-1 Saints