Southampton began the day 3 points above the relegation drop zone as they prepared to take on bottom club Queens Park Rangers. For some fans the points were already in the bag and the gap to the bottom three had grown to 6 points.
The fact that Harry Redknapp was returning for the first time since leaving us was reason enough for us to demand that we beat his team with the feelings that the vast majority of fans hold for our former manager.
The game began with choruses of boos for Harry ringing out as the two teams went helter skelter for each other. No time for flowing football as the antagonists flexed their muscles.
Saints held sway in the opening exchanges of the match which did little to lighten Redknapp’s mood as QPR struggled to cope with the home side’s pace and movement. Adam Lallana and Jack Cork both went near from long range, while Jason Puncheon had an appeal for a penalty turned down by referee Howard Webb.
A Ramirez cross to the far post was nodded back across goal by Lambert, but both Lallana and Puncheon were each within inches of tapping home inside the six yard box before the ball was cleared.
Saints looked the likely team to score but the game was turned on it’s head when Hoilett’s long pass out of defence caught the Saints’ defence on the turn and Remy sprinted clear to beat Artur Boruc with a crisp finish, which the retreating Danny Fox narrowly failed to clear off the line.
Revitalised, QPR became more composed and began to find it a much easier task holding Saints at bay. Saints were fighting a congested midfield, as they were forced to move the ball across the flanks to get around the bodies swarmed through the centre of the pitch.
The game was extremely physical as Rangers fought hard to keep us out. There was pause in play following a clash of heads between Lallana and QPR defender Clint Hill which left the former requiring a lengthy bit of treatment before he returned to the action relatively unharmed.
Lallana looked uncomfortable after that coming together, and two minutes before half time he came off and was replaced by Jay Rodriguez. Almost immediately Rodriguez had an impact as his fierce shot from distance was spilled by Cesar and Gaston Ramirez was on hand to gloriously chip the ball over the keeper and into the net.
There was still time for Schneiderlin to make a crucial blocking tackle in our box as Stephane Mbia so nearly turned the game back in the visitors` favour. The whistle blew and at HT it was all square.
Saints settled quickly at the start of the second period, with Fox linking up with a neat one-two on the edge of the area before sliding a shot wide of the near post. That was followed up by Fonte`s header from a Lambert cross, but the nod towards goal was comfortable enough for Cesar to hold.
Saints were now making most of the running though Rangers were able to make the occasional break out of defence and normally down the right side. Fonte hit a shot which whistled just wide of the post and then Rodriguez fired a shot which landed on the roof of the net.
Saints made a second enforced substitution when Fox went off much to relief of several Saints fans and Luke Shaw was greeted warmly when he took Fox’s place.
With Saints pressing almost non stop searching for a winner they made their final substitution with Ward-Prowse coming on in place of Ramirez in the 74th minute. Two minutes later and Rangers struck the final blow. Park-ji-Sung got the better of Yoshida to cross into the six yard box, and Jay Bothroyd applied the close range finish to give the struggling visitors an unexpected foothold in the contest.
Saints reacted by pushing forward even more and only a brilliant save by sub Robert Green kept a powerful Maya Yoshida effort out. Moments later and Green was down diverting a shot round the post. With time running out Rangers were quite content to sit back on their laurels and after six minutes of added time the whistle was blown and they had taken the spoils.
Saints had looked the better team for long spells but the atmosphere at St Mary’s was not one which sees the home crowd roaring on the team. For large parts of the game the Saints fans concentrated on trying to give Redknapp a hard time and this may have helped spur his team on to the win.
Mauricio Pochettino 6
As soon as we saw how easy it was to make a counter to our assaults I am disappointed that a change of formation wasn’t made.
Harry Redknapp 7
Didn’t have to do much to get his team up for this game as I feel our fans did his job for him. He did pick a team suitable for the war.