Sunday, 11 December 2011

Saviour Lambert Denies Blackpool Win

Rickie Lambert scored an injury time equaliser to salvage Southampton a 2-2 draw against a spirited Blackpool. It was Lambert's deflected strike who opened the scoring before Chris Basham’s diving header levelled for the visitors minutes later. Callum McManaman gave Blackpool the lead just after half-time after a howler from Saints goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski. Despite Lambert’s close range header for the Saints, their winning streak at St. Mary’s has come to an end.

Both sides started the game with keeping good possession of the ball however it was the Saints who had the first chance of the match with Jos Hooiveld heading wide from Danny Fox’s inswinging free-kick in the first five minutes. Blackpool came into the game to make it back-to-back wins in the league for the second time this season and it was Ludovic Sylvestre’s long range effort worried Bartosz Bilakowski in the Southampton goal, who replaced Kelvin Davis due to suffering a calf injury. It was the second mishap that the former Polish under-21 international had made and they were the catalysts for the rest of his performance. 

Southampton created chances with Morgan Schneiderlin firing over on the half volley from Adam Lallana's cross. Southampton's pressue paid off on the half hour mark as they took the lead when Neil Eardly was pressured off the ball by Adam Lallana who passed to Jack Cork who then passed to Lambert whose strike deflected off Blackpool defender Craig Cathcart into the back of the net. The hosts could have had a second four minutes later as Guly Do Prado played in Rickie Lambert was one-on-one with Blackpool goalkeeper Matt Gilks however Gilks saved Lambert's effort. St. Mary's was to be silenced as the Seasiders equalised on 36 minutes after Craig Basham's close range diving header from Callum McManaman's cross.  The visitors threatened to score a second with Matt Phillips hitting the post from outside the box and McManaman shooting wide of the post.

Southampton came out of the traps quickly in the second half where Blackpool where caught in possession again which Schneiderlin couldn't capitalise on with his effort deflected over the crossbar. The main talking point about the game happened minutes later when McManaman's shot inside the area looked comfortable for Bialkowski to gather however the ball slipped through legs and creeped over the line. A disaster for the 24-year-old as it was his first league game in two years where nerves appeared to get the better of him. The home record was now under-threat and the hosts pressured the Blackpool back line starting with Guly shooting straight at Gilks and Hooiveld heading just wide of the post. Captain Dean Hammond was next to get the Saints back on level terms but his curling shot just went past the far post on the hour mark.
DISASTER: Bialkowski dwelling on his error for Blackpool's second goal

Nigel Adkins made a double subtitution soon after bringing off Hammond and Danny Fox replacing them with Steve De Ridder and Dan Harding. The Saints continued to press for that all-important equaliser however headers from Guly and Lallana went wide of the post and straight at Gilks in the Blackpool goal respectively. Time was running out for Saints however they were given the lifeline of five minutes of stoppage-time by referee Geoff Eltringham who had been frustraring the St. Mary's faithful with a few of his decisions and he was at the centre of attention yet again. Firstly, Adam Lallana was judged to have been pushed in the box and seconds later, Schneiderlin was clearly shouldered in the back by Ian Evatt with the latter looking more clear cut. Three minutes into stoppage-time, the league leaders finally got their equaliser as Frazer Richardson crossed in for Lambert to head past Gilks from close range to being a sense of relief around St. Mary's. Before the final whistle, Steve De Ridder had the opportunity to set up one of his team-mates for the winner however he his heavy touch got the better of him. When the final whistle blew, the draw wasn't enough to save Southampton's winning streak at St. Mary's. however it has been a terrific run which every Saints fan will be proud to be part of and shows how difficult the Championship can be!

SAVIOUR: Lambert heads in Saints' equaliser in stoppage-time
Overall, it was a match full of emotion with three valuable points at stake as well as keeping the home record going however all Saints fans will take a draw from the match. A minority of fans may have been critical of Bialkowski however all goalkeepers make mistakes in big matches and Bart isn't the only one that has suffered. What we need to do, as fans, is to support, not slate! I agree it was a horrendous error however he has been at the club long enough to know that he has tremendous support from the rest of the squad and staff and the fans. What we've also seen from the match is the desire to keep going and the 'never say die' attitude is definitely an attribute that will be crucial from now until the end of the season. Lambert has once again proved that he can cope in the second tier of English football scoring two more goals which keeps his place at the top of the goalscoring charts in the Championship with 14 goals.

Next Sunday, it's the big one against Pompey which we have all been waiting for! Bring them on! Let's get back to winning ways on the road at Fratton

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