Southampton Football Club - on the March to the Arch
Monday, 29 March 2010
Carlisle 1 - 4 Saints JPT Final Match Report
2010 Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final
Carlisle 1 (Madine 84)
Saints 4 (Lambert 15, Lallana 44, Papa Waigo 50, Antonio 60)
Attendance: 73, 476
Two things were made clear yesterday as the highest domestic crowd of the weekend turned up to see Saints demolish Carlisle at Wembley. First, that there is more to English football than the Premier League - the strength of fan support, together with quality of players such as Rickie Lambert and Ian Harte plying their trade in the third tier, combined to pay testament to life in the lower leagues. And second, that Alan Pardew's Saints may be on the verge of something very special as they seek to make reality owner Markus Liebherr and Chairman Nicola Cortese's dream of top flight football within five years.
"This is a start - a good start," admitted Pardew after a game in which his side had run out comfortable victors over a below-par Carlisle side. After a shaky start, in which Dan Harding was lucky not give away a penalty for tussling in the area after six minutes, it was the actions of Carlisle defender Peter Murphy which gifted Saints the perfect start. His bizaare decision to handle Antonio's cross from the right may have succeeded in preventing the ball falling to Rickie Lambert, but he was lucky to remain on the pitch for a blatant foul. It only delayed the inevitable, however, as Rickie converted the resulting penalty to score his first goal in three appearances at Wembley. Saints' nerves were immediately relaxed, and although Carlisle continued to create some pressure, the ever-dangerous Adam Lallana had a total of three clear chances in the first half alone, the third of which he converted to all but tie up the game before half time.
A two goal half time cushion was beyond the hopes of most Saints fans, whose side are notorious for doing things the hard way. Pre-match pressure on the favourites was increased by a pile of injury problems, which saw experienced midfielder Paul Wotton drafted into midfield to replace Morgan Schneiderlin, who was unfortunate to be ruled out by a hamstring strain he picked up on Tuesday. The absence of Wayne Thomas was also a blow, and meant young full back Joseph Mills was granted a start on the left for only his seventh start of the season, with Dan Harding switching to the right. The side dealt admirably with the changes, however, as more poor defending from the northerners gifted Papa Waigo his first Wembley tap-in. Antonio, whose return from injury was a massive boost to the side, turned the result into a rout with a fine swivel shot on the hour - a great way to celebrate the midfielder's 20th birthday.
The inevitability of the result combined with a lack of match fitness from players brought in and playing out of position meant a pedestrian end to the game, and it would be harsh to begrudge Carlisle fans their side's consolation six minutes from time. Neither side had played their best football on the day but the open nature of the game combined with the five goals ensured it was quite a spectacle. As were the celebrations that followed Saints' win, which saw Pardew and his men climb the 61 Wembley steps to lift the surprisingly large trophy in front of their digital camera-wielding employer Liebherr. There were hugs all round between management and players, and a particularly pertinent one between Pardew and Cortese, who can hopefully reach more of an understanding on the back of this win. Do not be surprised, however, if the whip continues to be cracked with zeal - Cortese is clearly impatient for success. This win, however, demonstrates that Pardew has the appetite for it too, and he clearly wants more; as he admitted afterwards, the play-offs remain the aim this season.
I have supported Saints for as long as I have known and was a season ticket holder (Kingsland) before moving up north to university. I have witnessed the changing fortunes of the club at first hand: from the good old Dell days of Le Tissier, Dodd and Benali to the (for us) glory days of the early noughties; from the failed Dutch Revolution in the Championship to our present Swiss revival in League One. I have also written for The Southern Daily Echo and The Pink and write a weekly football blog for the brilliant Football Filter website. I hope you enjoy my views on Saints, football and life in general. Comments appreciated.