Tuesday, December 15, 2009
CANARIES CLOCKING UP ROAD MILES ...........
JOHNSTONE'S PAINT TROPHY
SOUTHAMPTON - NORWICH CITY
This is something of a strange match up between two of Division 1's better teams, infact, Leeds aside, Saints are the best team I have seen at this level this season, they knock the ball around well, do not panic when things go against them, use the full width of the pitch, have a coach who is unafraid to make changes and in Rickie Lambert, a striker way too good for this division and at the very peak of his game at present .
Things are not only going well on the pitch, but the quiet investment and long term plans of owner Markus Liebherr are starting to come together off the pitch too, with Saints training ground at Staplewood, set to be the redeveloped and become the envy of many EPL clubs. On the field, they are on fire, winning 12 from 15 , scoring three or more goals in nine of those, notching two or more in 14 from 16 starts, including a 2-2 draw when these two met here in the league last month, the home side led twice in that game and perhaps did enough to earn all three points.
The reason I called this a strange game is, whilst this competition now has value to both clubs, a two legged area final with one or both games televised, followed by a potential decider with Leeds United at what would be a sold out Wembley stadium is a real money earner in prospect , but promotion has to be a priority and both teams have massive games on saturday. Saints travel to face Leeds and City host fellow high flyers Huddersfield, games that will be at the back of their minds, maybe in City's case the forefront.
After all, they are not playing in front of their own fans tonight and had a gruelling 3-3 draw at Yeovil over the weekend, a match which involved two injury time goals, a 500 mile round trip and ten plus hours on a coach. After a brief recovery time, they face another 200 miles on the road and a 4-5 hour trip south to Hampshire. They also picked up a number of knocks in what was quite a physical game at Huish Park, which I have just finished watching brief highlights of and boss Paul Lambert will not be taking any chances with the Huddersfield game on the horizon, to say nothing of the busy holiday programme.
BTW, I accept that footballers get used to the endless travel, but some twenty hours on a bus in a 4-5 day period is tough for any sportsman, especially when several are carrying knocks and with Saints having been at home on saturday and probably back in their own homes by 18.30, it gives them far more quality prep/recovery time and a big advantage going into this game IMO. Home boss Alan Pardew will want to keep the momentum going, especially as the discussions over transfer window investment have doubtless already begun with Herr Liebherr.
Just saw some quotes from City boss Lambert : "My main priority is the league. I won't make a secret of that," he told reporters this morning. "I can't play lads who aren't fully recovered from the Saturday. I just have to see who's fit and who's not.
"I've got to balance it out, we haven't got a big enough squad to go week in, week out. As I've said before if there are lads carrying knocks then I've got to watch their welfare and protect some of them from playing a lot of games."
6.5 points Southampton -1/4 ball 1.84 asian line.