'Southampton secure crucial momentum in battle to beat the drop'

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I can’t remember the last time St Mary’s saw such scenes of elation. Saturday’s deserved defeat of Bournemouth may not have put us in the driving seat, but it has given us valuable momentum in our push for survival.

28th Apr 2018

Two great goals from Dusan Tadic, a player who has been pretty quiet all year, and three priceless points have left us just a point behind Swansea - who we have still to play - so it feels like our fate is back in our own hands again.

This is the kind of football we should have been playing from the first game of the season – our wide men harrying Bournemouth down their flanks, Mario Lemina driving play through the centre, Charlie Austin causing chaos in their box and Tadic cutting in with power and pace.

It’s been a long time coming but finally the St. Mary’s faithful are seeing the kind of attacking football they demand. It’s such a shame that it’s taken the desperation of a relegation dogfight to draw it out, but you could tell the Saints players just wanted it more than a Cherries side virtually assured of top-flight football next season.

How did Hughes conjure up the win?

In a nutshell, he’s instilled some self-belief in a team of talented players who were woefully lacking in confidence. The drive, desire and determination that a Premier League side needs to survive was there in spades.

So too was a tactical awareness, the lack of which has been our undoing up until now. It all started from our back line. Wesley Hoedt was immense in the centre and the solidity of his partnership with Jan Bednarek and Maya Yoshida gave Ryan Bertrand the opportunity to charge up the flank, with Nathan Redmond providing the perfect outlet.

Lemina has found his feet now and his pinpoint distribution set up Tadic for his coolly-taken first. Second time round the Saints’ favourite Serbian did it all on his own, winning the ball just beyond halfway and surging into the box to toe-poke perfectly past Asmir Begovic.

We did switch off briefly for Bournemouth’s goal – a reminder that we haven’t completely banished the bad habits picked up under Mauricio Pellegrino – but the team's ability to hold firm under mounting Cherries pressure (capped off by a fantastic late save from Alex McCarthy) sent a message out that the Saints are by no means dead and buried yet.

Did other results help?

At first it looked ominous – with West Brom winning at Newcastle, Stoke drawing at Anfield and Palace thumping Leicester to make themselves safe, but the two crucial results to go our way were Swansea losing to Chelsea and Huddersfield going down at home to Everton.

Those results combined with our win means we no longer have to look down the table, but instead focus on the three immediately above us.

With two huge games coming up, away at Everton and Swansea at home, we can’t get carried away, but four points from those and I reckon we’ll be staying up.

Who is going down?

I won’t even try to be objective, as like most Saints fans I have to believe we can stave off relegation, even with a home game against Manchester City on the final day.

West Brom, although on a great run, have left it too late to avoid the drop, and Stoke cannot score for love nor money. Both have played a game more than us too and their poor goal difference is effectively another point in deficit.

So who will claim that final place? For me it’s got to be Huddersfield.

With City, Chelsea and Arsenal left to play I can’t see them getting another point. Our game against Swansea will be pivotal, but Hughes has inspired the players and I expect them to fight tooth and nail for him until the final minute of the season.

Prediction? A draw with Everton, a win against Swansea and a predictable defeat to the champions – by which time we will already be safe. 

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