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Southampton v West Ham United

Filed: Tuesday, 18th October 2011
By: Preview Percy

We're working Preview Percy hard this week. The theory was that if we asked him to write two columns in four days he'd finally take the hint and get lost. Oh well, at least the nurses in his rest home will get a few hours off from being chased all over the place as he takes his usual slightly warped look at Tuesday's visit to Southampton. We're just surprised he's realised that they've moved from the Dell. As usual, John Northcutt supplies a welcome burst of statistical sanity at the end. Or at least he will do once one or two technical glitches are sorted out here at Kumb Towers...

And so we head to the deep south for the first of two matches on the seaside. First up we have Southampton who we face in a 7.45pm kick off at St Mary’s.

I need hardly tell anyone that this match represents a clash of the top two in the league, with us sitting two points behind them. They have a 100% record at St Mary’s having seen off Leeds, Millwall, Forest, Birmingham and Watford on their own turf, whilst we are unbeaten on the road so this is a big one for both clubs. Their two defeats this season have come at Leicester (2-3) and at Cardiff (1-2).

This will be the second top four clash in four days for the home team, having come away from Saturday’s clash with Derby County with a point from a 1-1 draw. Although the Saints came from behind, the fact that Rams’ keeper Frank Fielding gained many of the man of the match plaudits should give some sort of clue as to how deserved the point was, though other reports suggest that Derby had chances to pinch it at the end.

They’ve had some fun in recent years on the ownership front. After a period of administration they were bought in 2009 by Markus Liebherr whose family made their fortune making construction equipment. Liebherr appointed Nicola Cortese as executive chairman and a certain Alan Pardew as manager. Sadly, Liebherr passed away in August 2010 after suffering a heart attack. Rumours abounded that all was not well between Pardew and those charged with the day to day running of the club and it had been suggested that Pardew remained in place only due to Liebherr’s patronage. True or not, it is a fact that Pardew was sacked within three weeks of Liebherr’s demise, though there were some who mischievously suggested that Pardew left out of disappointment when he discovered that Nicola Cortese was an Italian businessman rather than a woman as he had hoped.

Pardew’s replacement was Scunthorpe manager Nigel Adkins who guided them to promotion from the third tier alongside Brighton. Like their fellow south-coasters they have made a decent start to the season, though Brighton have faded a little of late.

In goal they have veteran ‘keeper Kelvin Davies. Club captain Davies nearly became a Hammer in the summer of 2009 when all was chaos at St Marys. However the arrival of the new owners prompted Davies to stay with the club, preferring guaranteed first team action to a life on the bench understudying Rob Green, which is fair enough.

A brief trawl through various Southampton discussion boards suggests that the potential absence of attacking midfielder Adam Lallana is a worry –well for the supporters at least. There is a perception amongst the faithful that they struggle when the player isn’t about and he did miss the trip to Pride Park at the weekend with a foot problem. Official reports suggest that they are hopeful that Lallana will be fit for this match. On the other hand, unofficial reports suggest that the player missed Monday training and that he was seen at the training ground (or “complex” as I understand we must call such places these days) on crutches. Such comments are obviously about as reliable as the tube these days (has Wright-Phillips finished that medical yet?) so caution is advised before placing any credence in such reports.

One who definitely won’t be making an appearance is defender Dan Seaborne. Seaborne was on the wrong end of a beating outside a nightclub a few weeks ago that left him with a serious head injury. Arrests have been made and it would be probably be prudent to say no more.

In midfield during the summer they picked up Jack Cork from Chelsea for a reported £750,000. Cork is the son of the old Wimbledon striker Alan Cork, who gave his son the decidedly un-Crazy Gang middle name of “Porteous” , though I suppose knowing that lot it's always possible that he did it for a bet. Cork made exactly zero appearances for Chelsea, presumably Abrahamovic thinking him too cheap to display in his nice shiny first team.

Up front the current form horse is Ricky Lambert. The first signing of the Pardew era, his goals were instrumental in securing last season’s promotion and his nine league goals so far this season suggests that the move up a division is not one that has caused him many sleepless nights. He’s capable of scoring in the air and on the ground from open play and I seem to recall the odd free kick from time to time on the highlights shows as well – though they tend to be on late at night and the medication they give me in this place to keep me out of mischief can often play tricks with the memory. However, he's definitely one to keep an eye on.

Disappointingly for those who remember the movie “Mike Bassett England Manager” Lambert's strike partner is the familiar figure of David Connolly, rather than someone named Butler. During his spell at the Boleyn Connolly was famously christened “Angry Ant” by Glenn Roeder when the player took exception to being left out of the side in favour of Neil Mellor, whose first contact with his team mates was being picked up at a motorway service area on his way to the match. He's been with Southampton for two years now, which, early spells with Watford and Feyenoord apart, is just about as long as he's spent in any one place. At 34 he's entering the veteran stage of his career but, like the aforementioned Lallana, he has scored 4 times in the league this season, which indicates that he can still do a job at this level.

Our turn now. Well that was a decent performance and result at the weekend wasn't it?! It did come at something of a cost though. James Tomkins is struggling with a recurrence of the groin problem that kept him out a few weeks ago and once more we look a bit short in depth in the central defensive areas. If Tomkins is not available – and the noises emanating from the club suggest that this will be the case - Faye will come in to accompany Reid. If anything happens to them we'll then be looking at people to “fill in” in unfamiliar positions – always a worry.

Also doubtful is Matt Taylor, who was limping for a good few minutes before the ball went dead and he could be replaced on Saturday. Sadly, during this spell he did try and chase back a few times, bless him. Laudable as his efforts were one hopes that they didn't worsen the calf injury from which he was clearly suffering.

Another absentee will be Guy Demel whose hamstring continues to delay his debut. Another player injured before he starts then. We must be up to three figures for those by now.

On the bright side Joey O'Brien is ready again, though Faubert's recent good form on the right hand side means that O'Brien's selection may depend on which of the half dozen or so formations Mr Allardyce has in mind for this one. The boss has already hinted that, despite the fine game that Baldrick had at the weekend, he might not form part of the manager's cunning plans for this one.

Of those given the day off against Blackpool, Lansbury and Cole will both return to the squad. If we do go with one up front (or three as Mr Allardyce insists we do) Carew's form last week suggests that he might be a better bet. The Norwegian held the ball up exceedingly well against the Tangerines, though we'll need to get the “other two” up alongside him a lot better than we've been doing with that formation thus far this season if that plan is to work.

This is the biggest match of the season thus far. We've managed to hit second spot without ever quite having an extended run of good form. Whether the lack of consistency can be attributed to chopping and changing formations to deal with the opposition is a fair question. Certainly the manager's comments about picking a team to nullify Southampton's strengths – as opposed to making them worry about ours – seems to suggest that we'd have seem a different starting line-up for this one even without the changes that are likely to be enforced through injury.

A win here would take us into top spot and I think that the confidence to be gained from taking three points from this one would see the start of a run that would see us start to pull away. However they are no mugs and they will be up for this with a decent-sized crowd under the lights. So this week's Preview Percy Prediction –which is invariably totally wrong – is for a 2-2 draw.

Enjoy the game!

When Last We Met: In our relegation season of 2003 we drew 1-1 down there with a poacher's goal from Defoe giving us the point. Earlier that season at home we went down 1-0 to an injury time goal from James Baettie in what was just about the visitors' only attack of the match. It's not a new problem then.

Referee: Darren Deadman – I can't find any trace of him having refereed us in the past. He has shuttled between The Championship and League One this season, taking charge of four matches in the higher level. He was in charge at Leyton Orient on Saturday but unfortunately he failed to annoy Barry Hearn.

Danger Man: Ricky Lambert– the division's top scorer – 'nuff said. (though that unwritten law that says players will score against their old side means that Connolly will also be a threat).

Daft Fact of The Week: One of Southampton's most famous sons was the late Benny Hill. Hill's career went on the slide when his tv series was cancelled and he died in 1992 – on the same day a contract arrived in the post for him to produce a whole new series of specials for Central TV. Frankie Howerd died about the same time and some newspapers published a tribute from Hill not realising that he himself had been dead for a few days.

Stat man John: Northcutt's corner

Previous Away Friendlies v Southampton

January 1962: 6-2 (Tindall 3, Musgrove 2, Scott)
August 2008: 2-2 (Davenport, Hines)

Home Testimonial

For Bobby Ferguson: 4-3 (Cross, Ferguson, Barnes, Pearson)

Red Cards
Mark Ward - the Bolen Ground, December 1987

They Played For Both
Bill Adams, Eyal Berkovic, Iain Dowie, Richard Hall, Robbie Slater, Arthur Wilson, David Connolly, Paul Allen, Jim Harris, Joe Kirkup, David Speedie, Justin Fashanu and Vic Watson.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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