Yeovil Town were beaten by two controversial penalties at St Mary's this afternoon. Rickie Lambert continued to be Yeovil's nemesis when he scored twice from the spot to give Southampton their first league victory of the season. The Glovers battled valiantly but only fleetingly looked like they could seriously threaten the Saints goal during the 90 minutes. The first spot-kick came 19 minutes into the match when a dubious looking trip inside the box by Terrell Forbes on Marek Saganowski saw referee Tony Bates take centre stage and Lambert score from the spot. In the second period, Saints got their second spot kick when a linesman's flag ruled that Nathan Jones had handled inside the box, and again Lambert made no mistake.
The Glovers went into the match with Stefan Stam pulling out of the squad, but thankfully Craig Alcock had fully recovered from a hamstring injury. Jonathan Obika's absence through international duty allowed Sam Williams to get a starting place. On the subs bench, Youth Team striker Robert Clowes filled the 7th spot, with the Glovers down to their last 17 senior places.
Yeovil competed in the sense that they chased Southampton down, worked hard and put in plenty of effort. But it was clear from an early stage that one team held the aces, in subtle ways. It wasn't in goalbound attempts, and it wasn't in enthusiasm - the Glovers would have won that hands down. But it was in the way that almost every 50:50 ball was won by the home side and in the way that they held their shape far better and made themselves difficult to break down. An early Andy Welsh shot and a half chance for Gavin Tomlin gave Yeovil some hope that they might break through, but Southampton were to get the upper hand in controversial circumstances.
Marek Saganowski appeared to have lost the ball as it ran out of play, but he fell across the body of Terrell Forbes in theatrical fashion where only the most optimistic Saints fan might have appealed for a penalty. In the press this week, there has been plenty of talk about how to spot players performing theatrics inside the penalty box including academic presentations on the subject. A pity that referee Tony Bates doesn't appear to take a daily newspaper - he pointed to the spot and Rickie Lambert put the Saints 1-0 up with 19 minutes gone.
It's difficult to really identify any other clear-cut chances for either side in what was a first half played largely in the middle third of the pitch. Saints looked superior but without having any real cutting edge to them - they were well organised and Yeovil were a little inclined to play the ball across the face of the opposition box rather than attempting to shoot early when the opportunity arose.
If the first penalty was iffy, the second penalty was utterly ridiculous. It was apparently the result of a handball against Nathan Jones, but even that had to be confirmed to travelling fans via the BBC local radio commentary rather than by using their eyes. At the other end, Saints fans found it just as difficult to work out what referee Tony Bates and his linesman were doing in awarding the second spot kick. Even the Saints players walked away when the whistle was blown, with Rickie Lambert admitting after the game that he had assumed that Saints had been penalised for an infringment. Sadly, strikers like Lambert will accept any bit of generous charity thrown his way, and despite it being incredibly obvious from his run-up which corner he was going to aim for, the power of the shot was too much for Richard Martin to save.
With the second goal being a real kick in the teeth for the Glovers, Saints began to dominate possession with the crowd cheering every pass, as well as the arrival of Senegalese striker Papa Waigo Ndiaye onto the field. It wasn't really until the closing stages of the match that the Glovers began to rack up a number of good chances, even if the majority of attempts were made to look very comfortable by home keeper Kelvin Davis. There was a feeling that Saints were barely needing to get out of second gear to smother the Glovers attacks, and it was only near the end that they got a bit sloppy, with a long range attempt from Sam Williams, and other lesser efforts from Caulker, Mason and Kalala, but even so it looked as though Southampton might grab a slightly harsh third goal on the break as Yeovil pushed up in numbers.
It would be easy to try and pass this game off as more bad luck, or the result of unjust decisions, and it's true to say that on the surface of it, referee Tony Bates has a lot to answer for in his influence upon the game in its key decisions. But that would mask the fact that Yeovil were second best on the day and at times during the second period, the phrase "men against boys" sprung to mind. The players can't be faulted for their effort today, but there is a lack of quality and a lack of physical presence in the side, and certainly today the lack of a Plan B - magnified by the decision to only make one substitution in a game that was crying out for change. As part of his lead-up to the game, Skiverton said the two clubs were streets apart in their standing - it may have taken Mr Bates to step in to make that point obvious, but certainly the underlying impression was that Skivo was right in many aspects of Yeovil's play today.
Final Score: Southampton 2 Yeovil Town 0.
Scorers: Rickie Lambert (19 mins, 1-0 penalty), Rickie Lambert (52 mins, 2-0 penalty).
Yeovil Town: (4-4-2)
15. Richard Martin
2. Craig Alcock 6. Terrell Forbes 5. Steven Caulker 3. Nathan Jones
13. Ryan Mason 8. Keiran Murtagh 21. JP Kalala 11. Andy Welsh
9. Sam Williams 10. Gavin Tomlin
Subs: 33. Ben Roberts (GK) 16. Scott Murray 18. Andy Lindegaard 32. Andre McCollin 7. George O'Callaghan 28. Nathan Smith (64 mins for Andy Welsh) 34. Rob Clowes .
1. Kelvin Davis
2. Dan Harding 12. Neal Trotman 6. Radhi Jaidi 3. Wayne Thomas
23. Lloyd James 14. Dean Hammond 19. Morgan Schneiderlin 20. Adam Lallana
7. Richard Lambert 4. Marek Saganowski
28. Bartosz Bialkowski (GK) 10. Paul Wotton (79 mins for Wayne Thomas) 9. Papa Waigo Ndiaye (72 mins for Marek Saganowski) 35. Jacob Mellis 18. Joseph Mills (71 mins for Morgan Schneiderlin) 17. Matthew Paterson 5. Chris Perry
Southampton Bookings: Dean Hammond (66 mins, foul), Neal Trotman (74 mins, foul), Lloyd James (75 mins, foul), Papa Waigo Ndiaye (82 mins, kicking ball away)
Yeovil Bookings: Nathan Jones (80 mins, foul)
Attendance: 19,907 (including 1,472 away fans)
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