'Draw feels like a heartbreaking defeat for Southampton'

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Before kick-off Mark Hughes would have eagerly taken a point from this seemingly tricky fixture. At the final whistle, though, 1-1 felt like a heartbreaking defeat.

5th May 2018

An impressive second half from the Saints promised much and duly delivered after an instantly forgettable first half.

Nathan Redmond’s header in the 56th minute beyond Jordan Pickford was no more than we deserved, and we held the lead, and on occasion looked to build on it, all the way until half way through the 95th minute (there was nothing to suggest it should have been more than the four minutes signified).

Then a cruel deflection off Wesley Hoedt wrong-footed Alex McCarthy and Saints heads dropped. For once I couldn’t blame them – no sooner had the ball been placed in the centre circle than referee Jonathan Moss blew for full time and within the space of a minute the elation of the travelling Saints fans turned to utter despair.

Everton did precious little all game and perhaps we should have capitalised further on their reluctance to engage in a meaningful contest. It took 90 seconds of mysterious time added on to extra time to give them something they scarcely deserved.

Was a point enough?

With three points seemingly in the bag, the table for once had a promising look to it. We were above Huddersfield on goal difference and two points above Swansea. Then that horrible late equaliser stripped us of two points and shoved us down to 17th – still climbing out of the drop zone but it had looked so much better right until the very end.

In the cold light of day I suppose it doesn’t really change much though, in as much a draw will keep us above Swansea on goal difference, but those two missing points would have been vital given that we host Manchester City on the final day and Swansea are at home to an already-relegated Stoke.

It all comes down to Swansea

We have to assume that we will get beaten by City while Swansea will probably get three points from the Potters. With that in mind then yes, a win against Swansea is vital – in fact it will all but confirm our safety, unless there is a substantial swing in goal difference on the final day.

Let’s face it, that is entirely possible – but at least an eight-goal swing? Surely even we can’t let that happen!

They are, however, on a worse run than us – three consecutive defeats – so confidence is low while we must have gained huge self-belief from the last two games.

Huddersfield and West Ham can still mathematically go down but effectively the relegation battle comes down to Swansea versus Southampton on Tuesday night…

Was that the performance of a Premier League team?

In the second half, yes. The first 45 minutes were dour beyond belief. OK Everton didn’t have much to play for but we certainly did. Charlie Austin and Oriol Romeu both had chances while the Toffees fashioned nothing until Leighton Baines’ late free kick, which McCarthy did well to push over.

Redmond was a handful all game, as was Dusan Tadic and James Ward-Prowse who replaced him. We harried, we threatened, we broke their lines and caused them problems.

Do that in Swansea on Tuesday night and we’ll get the win we deserved on Saturday, and still need before the final showdown with the champions next weekend.

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