Last night was a night of realisation for many of us as we realised that we are still nothing like the force we were at the start of the season.
We have stuttered from game to game with varying degrees of quality showing in our performances. The occasional glimpse of form being seen but all to rarely.
Last night we saw a make shift team show that we need to have our best players on the field to have any chance of winning a game. It seems that our fringe players are not yet ready to make the grade.
Perhaps the performance last night was a good thing for the team because we know now for certain that to many changes is not a good thing. The first half showing last night was as poor as it has been this season. There was no spark, no drive and it appeared no hunger.
Millwall dictated play and should have been well in front by the time we saw a flash of inspiration from Lallana to equalise the opening Millwall goal. The goal brought us hope and the team seemed to respond to it and woke up enough to begin playing with a modicum of interest.already out of the game.
Half-time came and we were thankful that we were not trailing or worse still out of the game.
The second half began and Saints were at last showing some intent. On 54 minutes Guly was removed and replaced with Rickie Lambert. This substitution nearly came too late as it appeared he was about to be booked before the referee realising he had already been booked called him over and gave him a stern talking to. The substitution shortly afterwards was a huge relief to us fans.
Richard Chaplow has been sorely missed since getting injured but last night he looked a shadow of his former self. Obviously not match-fit he was nothing like the player we had seen earlier in the season and again we were pleased when he was the next to be substituted. The 60th minute saw youngster Ben Reeves take his place.
Saints were now enjoying more of the play but though playing better were finding it hard to break through a solid looking Millwall team. A team that defended with ten men when necessary but attacked swiftly causing problems at our end of play.
When Saints took the lead through Rickie Lambert we began to believe that we were going to go on and win the game albeit undeservedly. False hopes though as Millwall equalised two minutes later with N’Guessen heading home powerfully. Another goal against us from an ex-Saint. How often that seems to happen.
The final minutes were end to end with both sides creating chances but it fell to Liam Feeney of Millwall to score a fantastic goal to decide the game when it had looked likely extra time was about to be played.
The defeat hurt but worse was the feeling that we have seriously lost our way. There were some good points to savour though. Chun Lee showed some great movement and was a tad unlucky not to score. Lallana looked as if he was getting back to his best. Bialkowski gave a man of the match performance and didn’t deserve to be on the losing team. He was clearly back to his best last night which was a good sign.
Downside was the performance of the likes of Guly and De Ridder. Chaplow was not up to it though he is clearly not yet match-fit.
Overall the game was reasonably exciting. For me it did show that our midfield is just not as good as we think if the likes of Schneiderlin is not playing. Informative game up to a point and relief that it was in the cup and not the league. Biggest concern is the fact that as all of our teams play with the same supposedly fluid style the players last night couldn’t step up to the plate. I didn’t see one of the fringe players make a statement to the manager except for super Bart.
The change of formation at the start of the second half showed that we have a manager who can alter the way we are playing. We now have to trust him to select eleven players to play against and beat Burnley on Saturday. I feel it very likely that we will see a Lambert, Sharp front two which could make all the difference. Morgan will be back and hopefully Jos will return as well.
So in the end a poor result but there were still signs in the second half that all is not yet lost. Tighten up the midfield and we should be raring to go. Only request I have is for the team to play with the necessary drive and intent. Make it easy for us to cheer you on and together we can do the business.
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