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Southampton 2009 Southampton - Doncaster 1-2

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Saints vs Doncaster - The verdict

Shell-shocked Saints slipped to a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Doncaster Rovers who began the day one place behind their hosts, and finished it one point above them.

Jan Poortvliet kept faith with the team that had snatched the three points at Oakwell, and saw his men dominate a busy first half and create ample opportunities to take the lead against a Rovers side that included just one change from their previous FA Cup stalemate with Cheltenham.

However, despite both sides drawing a first half blank, the visitors took the lead within just 12 seconds of the restart and then doubled their lead nine minutes before time, leaving home fans with just an injury-time strike from Saganowski for consolation.

Saints kicked things off brightly and almost took the lead in the first minute as they surged forward, with Surman winning an early corner as the first shot of the match flew wide and took a deflection on route.

Former Bournemouth boss Sean O'Driscoll had to wait until the 8th minute to see his side test Kelvin Davis in the Saints goal, with Lewis Guy's speculative effort being well blocked by the Southampton 'keeper before bouncing up and requiring a header from home debutant Jan-Paul Saeijs to guide it behind and out of danger.

Sam Hird then had his shot from 12-yards brilliantly saved with one hand by Davis to keep the scores level, and two minutes later Saints were back on top as Surman played a neat combination with Holmes before seeing his attempt saved by the feet of Neil Sullivan from point blank range.

Lee Holmes also had a great chance to open the scoring in the 13th minute after good work from McGoldrick and Saganowski had found him some space, but the former Derby man scuffed his shot when he actually had more time if needed.

Polish front-man Marek Saganowski could not be faulted for his endeavour throughout and drew a fantastic save from Sullivan with an effort to the left of goal, but Wright-Phillips could only fire wide as he picked up the rebound.

The returned striker was involved again on 26 minutes as his header was cleared off the line by John Spicer and he was then fouled by James Chambers, who flew in to halt the Pole's surging run down the left flank and was booked in the process.

Doncaster's movement and clever set pieces almost paid off on 33 minutes as a clever delivery seemed to confuse Saints and saw Schneiderlin and Davis collide before Coppinger put an overhead kick high over the bar amidst the confusion.

Surman put another opportunity over the Doncaster bar three minutes later and the visitors went close through the ever-lively Martin Woods and Coppinger as the game opened up for both sides.

The only downside of the opening spell came four minutes from the break when Surman picked up his 5th booking of the season for a late tackle on Brian Stock meaning he will now be suspended for the mid-week match against Norwich.

Half-Time: Southampton 0-0 Doncaster Rovers

With things level at the interval, Saints took to the field intent to carry on where they had left off, but their plans were dealt a near fatal blow within seconds.

With approximately 12 seconds of the second half gone Doncaster opened the scoring after Spicer released Coppinger, whose shot took a deflection off Wright-Phillips and fell for Martin WOODS to fire past Davis into the bottom corner.

With Saints seemingly hit for six and Doncaster now sitting on their lead, Poortvliet made a daring double switch in an attempt to win back control of the midfield by withdrawing Chris Perry and Lee Holmes and sending on Adam Lallana and Ryan Smith.

This meant Saints shifting to an unfamiliar 'three at the back' formation, and whilst Poortvliet has been occasionally criticised for sticking too rigidly to his preferred set-up, it was clear that something different was now needed to force an equaliser.

Jan-Paul Saeijs became the next man in the referee's book on 58 minutes for a foul on Lewis Guy, before Coppinger again got free and tested Davis from close range with a shot that was well saved by the Saints 'keeper at the midfielder's second attempt.

The home side then went close as McGoldrick put the ball just over from 20 yards and O'Driscoll made his first switch with just over 20 minutes remaining.

With Gareth Taylor now on for Lewis Guy, Doncaster were still on the attack but it was Saints who came closest to the next goal with Smith crossing in well for McGoldrick to head towards the target, glancing the bar in the process.

Saganowski also went close on 76 minutes as he shot from 30 yards and forced a good save from Sullivan, with the former Wimbledon stopper tipping the ball wide with fine agility.

A minute later, substitute Ryan Smith was thwarted by Sullivan again, as his 25-yard volley was acrobatically pushed over the bar to maintain Rovers' slender lead.

That advantage was eventually doubled in the 81st minute in somewhat tame fashion, as COPPINGER reached the by-line unchallenged and rounded Davis to tap the ball in from barely a yard out.

For from being a surrender however, Saints then mounted a late comeback and clawed a goal back through SAGANOWSKI who, after being released by Smith, was able to shoot low across Sullivan and into the bottom left corner at the start of the added four minutes.

It was, however, scant consolation in a game that had been there for the taking in the first 45 and slipped further and further from Saints' grasp as the second half progressed.

Time will tell whether or not Poortvliet's young squad have what it takes to pull themselves up from the lower reaches of the Championship table, but defeat at home to relegation rivals in clearly not the way to do it.

Back to back wins have been hard to come-by in a season of change and Jan Poortvliet and his staff will be working hard during the coming week to ensure that, at Norwich City at least, Saints can cut the mustard.

Full-Time: Southampton 1-2 Doncaster Rovers

Saints: Davis, James, Perry (Lallana, 56), Saeijs, Molyneux, Schneiderlin, Surman, Holmes (Smith, 56), Wright-Phillips, McGoldrick, Saganowski. Subs: Bialkowski, Wotton, Gillett.

Booked: Surman, Saeijs, Wright-Phillips

Doncaster: Sullivan, O'Connor, Mills, Hird, Chambers, Spicer (Van Nieustadt, 89), Stock, Wellens, Woods, Coppinger (Wilson, 85), Guy (Taylor, 70) Subs: Lockwood, Roberts.

Booked: Chambers, Woods

Attendence: 15,837 (Incl. 818 away)

Referee: Andy Woolmer


Poortvliets verdict - Doncaster

Saints failed to build on their win against Barnsley and Head Coach Jan Poortvliet admitted after the game that he shared some of the fans frustrations.

"I can understand the anger of the fans and it is normal," he said. "You only have support when you win games. The only thing in football is to win, but we were not playing a bad game. It was reasonable, but the fans' main point was that we didn't win and that's understandable."

"I thought the first half we could have made a couple of goals but we didn't do it and that's my only disappointment because we worked hard and the only thing we missed was the confidence to score a goal.

"Doncaster also had chances in the first half as well, but we had a lot more and should have taken the lead.

"We came out second half and the intention was there for the first ten minutes to put the pressure on, but straight away we conceded a goal and that was a bit unlucky.

"It is a big, big defeat and it has hit us hard. The boys did what they had to, but the only thing they didn't do and haven't done in the past make goals."

Poortvliet made a tactical change after 57 minutes, sending on Ryan Smith and Lallana for Chris Perry and Lee Holmes and took time out to explain the reasons behind the switch.

"We played three at the back because we were struggling a little bit in the midfield and we needed extra bodies there. I could have put a defensive player on but I wanted to keep Morgan Schneiderlin in front of the defence because of his passing game and he can put a ball over the defence.

"Chris Perry played well and it was a gamble which we needed because we had to score. At that stage we were 1-0 down and they got one chance and made a goal.

"We weren't looking good after that but I can't criticise the three man defence because everybody was back at that point."

Despite the eventual result, Poortvliet remained confident that his squad have the qualities required to moved themselves away from the danger zone and that he can get the best from them.

"I think everyone did their best and every day on the training ground we do everything we can to make a better team and one who believe in themselves, but you see in the home games that it is difficult because there is a big pressure on.

"We were all hoping we would win this one but we didn't do it and there was a big pressure on the boys and it will stay like that because you need to have a win and to do that you need to score goals.

"You are always under pressure because the situation is like that. I don't walk away from it. I can look in the mirror because I give everything and we work very hard on every detail so for me it's not a problem.

"The quality is in the squad, but you saw in first half when there is hesitation before the first goal and that's the only thing.


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