Fortune favours Southampton

Monday 14th January 2013 16:13

Rodriguez: set for an appearance on Splash?

Rodriguez: set for an appearance on Splash?

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Ben Stanfield hopes that the win over Aston Villa shows that lady luck is finally smiling on Southampton.

'Dive' drama irrelevant as Saints win again

Simulation, cheating, experience call it what you will. Diving is unfortunately a big part of the British game these days and has been for a while now since the influx of foreigners to our shores.

Some players have built a negative reputation due to diving regularly - Luis Suarez, Didier Drogba, Gareth Bale, Cazorla at Arsenal, Nani at Manchester United etc. - the list goes on nowadays unfortunately! After Saints fantastic win at Aston Villa at the weekend all the comment and focus has been on the Jay Rodriguez "dive" in the penalty area in front of the Holte End.

Firstly the facts. BBC Solent (Southampton's local radio) and latterly BBC 5Live advised listeners after the game that Mark Halsey, the referee at the centre of the controversial penalty award, had apparently told the players on the pitch, and coaching staff on the sidelines, that he had given the penalty for the first foul by goalkeeper Brad Guzan on Jason Puncheon, before the ball even rebounded to Rodriguez.

Now even though I'm a Saints fan, so of course bias that would therefore mean that the Rodriguez "dive" was irrelevant because the ball was effectively dead if Halsey had already awarded the penalty. Case closed. If only it was that simple I guess!

Unfortunately, in my opinion, Brad Guzan won the ball and the first incident was even less of a penalty than the second. Due to that not being clear cut all the attention has been on the fact that it must have been for the foul on Rodriguez. Either way if I'd been a Villa fan I would have been very frustrated that penalty had been given against my club at all!

It's clear to me (and everyone who has seen the incident) that there was absolutely no contact between Enda Stevens, the young Villa defender (aren't they all!), and Rodriguez but to be fair to Rodriguez he didn't even appeal for the penalty anyway.

Whether Halsey gave it for the first incident or second, it wasn't a penalty and more questions, unfortunately, should be asked of him for awarding a penalty in the first place! I've followed Saints for nearly 30 years now and I can safely say that for the majority of those years we've been too honest for our own good and we're more than worth some of our own luck.

Having said this of course I don't want to see Saints players ever cheating to achieve success and I would have been embarrassed, as a Saints fan, if that Rodriguez moment had indeed been the reason for the penalty appeal. But it wasn't! Halsey felt that the goalkeeper fouled Puncheon, he gave the penalty for that and therefore the "dive" doesn't need to be discussed any further!

Managers often say that these penalty decisions even themselves out over a season and I think it is true - although I doubt Paul Lambert would agree!

Just last week Chelsea were awarded a penalty against Saints, in the FA Cup at St. Mary's, for handball against Steven Davies when it was no-where near his hand/arm. Nothing was made of it by Saints partly because we were 4-1 down already but partly because you know that you will win some and lose some across the season and that once a referee has pointed to the spot he is very unlikely to change his mind.


Controversial penalties aside, the game at Villa, after a tough Christmas period, was a massive result for Saints. I felt, as I still do, that if we won at Villa we would stay up this season and if we had lost it may have been a significant confidence drainer. So far this season we've done really well against the clubs currently around ourselves. We've beaten QPR, beaten Reading, beaten Newcastle and now beaten Villa twice as well.

No-one would have fancied us to get anything from Stoke away before the game started, but we got a valuable point, albeit throwing away a two goal lead, against ten men and in the 90th minute. Also no-one would have fancied us to get anything against Arsenal at St. Mary's the week before last against their pace and counter-attacking away ability.

But we did and with only two defeats in 11 games now, and a significantly tighter defence, we are definitely developing that "growing maturity" that Nigel Adkins keeps on preaching about.

We have some very tough fixtures coming up against Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United in January but we've given ourselves a chance to stay up.

Chelsea away will most likely be seen by many as a damage limitation job but QPR and Swansea have both gone to Stamford Bridge and won recently so why can't we? Ok maybe that's a little unrealistic but you never know!

With 21 points from 21 games we have done remarkably well considering our baptism of fire in the Premier League. We are certainly showing now why we have done so well over the last two seasons and warranted a chance in the Premier League.

We are still missing Adam Lallana, although nobody knows for how long, and Jose Fonte was recently stretchered off and looks to be a long-term miss now as well. Fortunately we are still currently in a transfer window and hopefully we can get one or two experienced and committed defenders in to bolster our ranks. We certainly need a little bit more quality/cover at the back but only from those that want to be part of a relegation battle and not turn up for easy cash - we'll leave those players to head to QPR!

I reckon if Saints can achieve another 18-20 points from the last 17 games then we might just stay up. Lots of media pundits and other clubs' fans have written Saints off time and again this season but we're fighting and we're battling. We're having a great time back in the big time but Saints are a Club where, unlike some others, we follow our Club in our thousands whatever league we're in.

We're not bothered about proving anyone wrong, just proving to ourselves as a club that we deserve to stay at this level. I guess the question is really whether we'll be paying another £50 to visit the Etihad next season or £15 to visit London Road. At the moment I think we'll stay up but ask me again at the end of January!

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