Palace haven’t beaten Southampton in the league at St. Mary’s since the 2007/08 season, nearly 10 years ago. Last night that run didn’t particularly look like changing, even when we went ahead we always looked shaky and truthfully can’t have too many complaints that Southampton ran out eventual winners. It was a sub-par performance that brought to an end a four-game winning run, but it taught us some key lessons.
Tomkins key to our newly watertight defence
Both Scott Dann and James Tomkins missed out last night through injuries they picked up against Chelsea on the weekend and their absence demonstrated that however mighty Mamadou Sakho is, their joint absence hits us hard. The warning signs were there early, within a minute to be exact, and it was Shane Long that issued that stark warning by ghosting in behind Martin Kelly who was tied in all sorts of knots even that early on.
Southampton posed a threat all evening but we just couldn’t hold out against their advances like we managed to against Chelsea. We were far too static, far too laboured in defence, there were too many individual battles being lost. Schlupp was out of position, Ward was being shown up for pace like we’ve seen on all too many occasions this season and Sakho’s last ditch tackles couldn’t dig us out of the proverbial forever. He needed a partner, he was missing one last night.
Inability to see the game out not out of our system just yet
Yesterday we weren’t at our best. We went ahead through a wonderfully worked goal but aside from that got pinned into our own half too often to impose any period of extended pressure. We were disjointed at the back as I mentioned and going forward things didn’t look much better, even the mercurial Zaha struggled to make much of an impact on Southampton’s defence.
Fatigue absolutely played a part, we took a battering at Chelsea on the weekend both in terms of the effort expended and damage to our personnel. Defensively we were thin on ground with the absence of Tomkins and Dann but aside from those enforced changes it was more or less the same side that faced Chelsea who stepped out on the South Coast last night. Honestly, it showed, we were second to far too many second balls and looked just a yard short of pace when it came to dealing with Southampton’s movement of the ball,
All that being said, 82 minutes into the game the score was level and losing 3-1 from that position will certainly rankle with Sam Allardyce. Whether we’d have deserved a point or not is completely irrelevant, we were in the position to move ourselves another point closer to safety and we failed to take it.
Hennessey proves Chelsea wasn’t a one-off
When you concede three times in a game it’s easy to point the finger at both the defence and goalkeeper but Wayne Hennessey put in one of his best performances in a Palace shirt for the second game running. He’s been roundly criticised for his lack of dominance in the air, a slightly ironic accusation as he stands at well over 6 ft, but in the last couple of games he looks to have grown in confidence and with it has come an improvement in all areas of his play.
He was instrumental in securing a win against Chelsea, he made save after save to maintain our advantage – it was one of the best and most dominant displays we’ve seen from in a Palace shirt, period. Yesterday he proved that it wasn’t just a one off, he was dominant in the air and again made multiple saves, including some key one on ones. If we’d held on for a draw we would have been once again lauding a wonderful goalkeeping margins. Small margins…