20/10/2012: West Ham 4-1 Saints

Saints fell to another disappointing defeat at Upton Park, going down 4-1 to West Ham. Nigel Adkins' men played reasonably well for an hour, but were undone by a series of defensive errors. The Hammers went 2-0 up just after half-time, only for Saints to pull a goal back mid-way through the second half. At that point the momentum was with the visitors. West Ham turned it around with a penalty, and took control in the final quarter.

Nigel Adkins sprung a few surprises before kick-off. Artur Boruc was included in goal for the first time in place of Paulo Gazzaniga, who wasn't even on the bench. Saints lined-up with a 4-2-3-1, with Nathaniel Clyne coming back in at right-back. Maya Yoshida took up the unfamiliar role of left-back. Morgan Schneiderlin played in the holding role, regularly drifting to the right in an attempt to nullify the threat of Matt Jarvis. Steven Davis sat in the middle, with Guly on the left, Adam Lallana through the middle and Jason Puncheon on the right. Jay Rodriguez was surprisingly given the nod ahead of Rickie Lambert up front.

Saints had much the better of the first-half, controlling possession without creating too many clear cut chances. The back four was a shambles in the second half, but held up pretty well early on. Boruc nearly gifted West Ham a goal a few minutes in when his misplaced pass was intercepted by Andy Carroll, who had his subsequent effort blocked by Hooiveld. Saints had the ball in the final third for long periods, and put together some good passages of play, but struggled to break down a disciplined West Ham back four. Puncheon, Lallana and Guly threaded a number of balls through to Rodriguez, who was invariably found offside. West Ham took a more direct approach to the game, but lone-front man Carroll was largely ineffective and clumsy. Both sides had a number of set-pieces which were well defended. Kevin Nolan made himself a real nuisance at corners. Saints had a couple of wayward efforts from long range, with Guly and Yoshida firing wide.

Saints were inevitably made to pay for their lacking cutting edge in the first half, falling 2-0 behind within the first three minutes of the second. On 46 minutes Mark Nobles free-kick evaded the entire Southampton defence before flying into the back of the net. Moments later, Yossi Benayoun intercepted the ball from Yoshida, before crossing for Nolan, who tapped in at the back post. The West Ham skipper escaped the attention of Jose Fonte, who was ball-watching. Saints soon regained control of the football, and enjoyed another good spell of possession. The momentum was building in the visitors favour. Yoshida arrived in the box, only to have two shots blocked. On 61 minutes Lallana made it 2-1, smashing the ball into the roof of the net after Rodriguez had won the ball from James Collins. At that point it felt as if it was only a matter of time before an equaliser arrived. Adkins threw on Lambert and Emmanuel Mayuka for Rodriguez and Puncheon. Rather than act as a catalyst, the substitutions took the sting out Saints' performance. The away side resorted in lumping more long balls forward in Lambert's direction, which only made it easier for West Ham to kill off the game. The Southampton number seven did have a free-kick dip just over the bar, but was otherwise disappointing. The Hammers had the lions' share of the possession towards the end of the game, barely allowing Saints even a sniff of a chance. On 72 minutes West Ham effectively put the game to bed with a penalty. Noble converted from the spot after Fonte was judged to have handled the ball. Modibo Maiga wrapped things up at 4-1 on 87 with a terrific curling strike. The substitute got the better of Yoshida and Fonte before finding the back of the net.

It was the same old story for Saints. The team looked good in spells, but were also incredibly vulnerable at the back yet again. Much of the talk pre-match was about Adkins' decision to play Rodriguez in favour of Lambert, but that was largely irrelevant in the end. Both men were ineffective. Our problems were at the other end of the pitch. Things would have probably been slightly better if we had a recognised left-back playing, but the performance of our back-five was still unacceptable. Going forward we could have done with the creative spark of Gaston Ramirez. Our attacking players did reasonably well, but none of them possessed that extra bit of magic that unlocks defences. There were some positives. Steven Davis looked class yet again. He and Morgan Schneiderlin wouldn't look out of place in a top Premier League club. It was a day to forget, but there's still plenty of time to put things right.

Attendance: 34,925

Match Ratings:

Boruc: 5. Didn't look 100% fit. Made a couple of decent saves, but pretty shaky overall. Should get better with time

Clyne: 5. Came out second best against Matt Jarvis

Fonte: 5. Solid first half, but poor in the second. Badly positioned for at least one of the goals

Hooiveld: 5. A slight improvement on his Fulham showing, but still looked like an accident waiting to happen at times

Yoshida: 6. Linked up well with Guly in the first half, but well below the level expected after the break

Schneiderlin: 7. Solid display, helped out defensively

Davis: 8. Best Saints player on the pitch. Strong defensively and in attack. Looked the most likely to make something happen

Puncheon: 7. Worked tirelessly as always

Lallana: 7. Looked dangerous in spells, rewarded with a goal.

Guly: 7. Didn't do a lot wrong, passing very good.

Rodriguez: 5. Just couldn't get into the game. Fell afoul of the offside trap far too many times

Substitutes:

Lambert: 5. Made little impact, barely touched the ball after coming on

Mayuka: 5. Little of note to mention other than a few decent touches

Ward-Prowse: Only on the pitch for a matter of minutes.