Saints played host to a team that had won eight of fourteen away games yesterday and really took them to task. Burnley were shown the full force of a team that has at last regained it’s form.
With the team showing no weaknesses at all Saints dictated practically 75% of the game and fully deserved the victory which just might have been the kick-start that we have been clamouring for recently.
The team looked as good as it had early season with good movement and passing to the fore. The slow laboured play of the recent past was gone and we looked like a team with desire and purpose once more. Back to full strength we actually played with confidence.
Billy Sharp made his full home debut alongside Rickie Lambert in attack, with Guly moving to the right of midfield on his return to the side. Danny Fox was back from a one match suspension to line up against his former club in defence., and Jos Hooiveldt returned from injury.
The surprise for many was that Nigel didn’t pick a goalkeeper for the bench as the Saints named five outfield players on the bench for the first time of Nigel Adkins’ reign. A few clubs have done this on a regular basis and it does add to the options in the outfield if things go awry.
The game started with some lively attacking and after good work from Jack Cork nearly beat the off-side trap but Kieran Trippier did well to beat Sharp to the ball and clear. The narrow escape for Burnley mattered little as two minutes later Frazer Richardson did brilliantly in beating Mee down the right before sending in a great cross from the bye-line which ended with Lallana sending a looping header over the keeper into the net.
Minutes later and Saints nearly manufactured a second goal. Danny Fox won the ball deep inside the Burnley half before sending an inch perfect pass back to Rickie Lambert who’s shot was tipped away via the post to safety by keeper Grant. The corner was the headed goal-wards by Lambert, only for Dean Marney to hack clear off the line.
Saints were doing so well that it wasn’t until the 24th minute that Kelvin Davis had a shot to save. When it did it was a tame effort from distance by Keith Treacey. The feared combination of Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin proving to be well contained and ineffectual.
On the half hour mark Cork sent Sharp through but his snapshot was deflected for a corner. Again the Saints persisted and on 33 minutes found another way through. Lambert turning cut a ball back towards Sharp and as Sharp, Mee and the keeper converged the ball ended up in the back of the net. Sharp may have got a touch but the goal was given as an own goal by Mee.
Half-time arrived with Saints in total control and Burnley looking beaten.
The second half began with Burnley making two substitutions. Treacey and Marney were removed and were replaced with Josh McQuoid and Marvin Bartley two ex Cherries as they searched for a way back into the match.
A succession of Saints corners came to nothing and Burnley then had their best spell of the match. They pushed forward determinedly but the Saints defence held firm and only a solitary effort from McQuoid was forthcoming which Davis held safely with comfort.
On 64 minutes David Connolly replaced Billy Sharp and soon things were swinging Saints way yet again. Cork crossed for Lallana but his effort was saved by Grant. The Lambert sent in a great cross which Connolly was just unable to reach as Saints resumed the pressure on the Burnley defence. Connolly did convert a chance but it was cancelled out for offside.
Mee was removed for Burnley and replaced by Zavon Hines but with Saints in total control it was a case of whether we could add to our lead. The crowd was in good voice and the team were playing with the authority of a team that knows it will win. Four minutes were added but Saints were never in any danger and the match finished with Saints totally deserving the win.
Nigel Adkins – 9
Perfect team selection and planning.
Eddie Howe – 5
Totally out thought throughout.