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southampton 100x500We know that our fixtures will get disrupted for television scheduling but I hadn’t considered a late Sunday afternoon kick off at Southampton although I do have to say it is considerably better than the lunchtime start they gave us at Portsmouth back in 2009.

It’s how it is now and this is our third successive game that’s been moved for television. Watford had to traipse up to the Turf on a Monday night and two weeks ago Arsenal had to contend with a 4:30 p.m. kick off on a Sunday.

Still, it’s good to get back into action after another international break. I don’t like them when we are in the Championship but it’s even worse in the Premier League. We played only three times before the first one, then four last time and we’ve only another four before the next one.

We used to sit and put up with it with none, or certainly very few, of our players involved but eight of our first team squad have come back from international duty. Tom Heaton and Michael Keane were with England, Sam Vokes with Wales and both Jeff Hendrick and Stephen Ward were away with the Republic of Ireland. You can add Scott Arfield (Canada), Steven Defour (Belgium) and Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Iceland) to that list.

For one of those eight players, tomorrow is a special day. He might not have played for them but Sam Vokes is very much a Southampton fan and will relish playing there in front of his Southampton supporting dad who, in fairness, does watch Burnley far more often these days.

We’ve been playing very well recently. We’ve had some tough games and we’ve got some tough games coming up, but I think we’ve shown what we’re all about. It was a tough one to take against Arsenal because it was probably one of our better performances this season. We weren’t up against it for ninety minutes and we were on the front foot showing what we are all about. We created a lot of chances and to get that killer blow in the last minute was a blow but we’ll take the confidence from the performance.

It’s one I’m looking forward to but we’ve come up against them a few times recently in the league and in cup runs so it’s a game we’re looking forward to.”

Should Sam and Burnley pick up all three points tomorrow it will be our first win in Southampton since a Steven Caldwell goal gave us a 1-0 win in April 2008 but we’ve never won a top flight game there. We were beaten 2-0 two seasons ago, as you can read below, and in the old First Division we played against them six times at the Dell, drawing three of them and losing the other three with the last point coming from a 2-2 draw in 1973/74 with Paul Fletcher and Ray Hankin scoring our goals.

It seems we have virtually a clean bill of health. Heaton looks set to continue according to Sean Dyche and Ashley Barnes, the one player who will be missing through injury, is finally on his way back and set to play some football next week. Andre Gray will also miss out as he serves the third of his four match ban.

Unless anyone has returned from international duty with a problem, I’d expect us to remain unchanged from the team that were so undeservedly beaten by Arsenal.

Expect our team to be: Tom Heaton, Matt Lowton, Michael Keane, Ben Mee, Stephen Ward, Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Jeff Hendrick, Dean Marney, Steven Defour, George Boyd, Sam Vokes. Subs: Paul Robinson, Jon Flanagan, James Tarkowski, Aiden O’Neill, Michael Kightly, Scott Arfield, Patrick Bamford.

When Santi Cazorla converted a stoppage time penalty against Southampton in September to give Arsenal a 2-1 win against them, I don’t think many would have envisaged they would take to the pitch tomorrow not having conceded a goal since. But that’s the case in four Premier League and two Europa League games including a shut out at Leicester in a 0-0 draw last time out.

Only Spurs have conceded less Premier League goals this season although only us and Sunderland have actually scored less. I think it is fair to say that their strength is defensively which is a surprise when you see the quality of their forwards including two who used to wear our colours.

Prior to this run they hadn’t won a league game as they got used to methods of new manager Claude Puel, who replaced Ronald Koeman in the summer, but there is no doubt they have looked a very much more organised side since they did get that first win which came in the Europa League against Sparta Prague.

Like Burnley they have had five of their players score league goals this season. All our goalscorers have netted once as have all but one of Southampton’s and it is no surprise that Charlie Austin is the player with two. He’s netted in the home win against Swansea and the away win at West Ham. His former Burnley team mate Jay Rodriguez scored his goal in the 1-1 draw at home to current bottom club Sunderland back in August. For Jay it was a first Premier League goal since he scored twice in a 4-0 win against Newcastle in March 2014, a week before he suffered his cruciate ligament injury at Manchester City.

There have been no clues as to what their team might be other than Puel confirming that, with a big fixture list before the next break, he will be rotating his squad. He has, however, confirmed that club record signing Sofiane Boufal, the Moroccan international, will be on the bench but that full backs Cédric Soares and Ryan Bertrand are both ruled out while Shane Long, who was injured playing for the Republic of Ireland, is rated no more than 50/50. He has said that Jay Rod will be involved with the squad. Cuco Martina and Matt Targett are expected to deputise in the full back positions.

Last time out, against Leicester, their team was: Fraser Forster, Virgin van Dijk, José Fonte, Ryan Bertrand, Cédric Soares, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Steven Davis, Dusan Tadic, Oriol Romeu, Charlie Austin, Nathan Redmond. Subs: Alex McCarthy, Jordy Clasie, James Ward-Prowse, Olufela Olomola, Shane Long, Cuco Martina, Maya Yoshida.




Our game at Southampton two seasons ago ended in a 2-0 defeat, but he result could have been so different had we taken our first half chances and not given away two very poor goals, one in each half.

The first piece of action involved a serious injury to home goalkeeper Fraser Forster. It first looked as though Sam Vokes had caught him but that was no the case and the England keeper was stretchered off following around five minutes of treatment on the pitch for a serious knee injury.

Typical of our luck, he was replaced by 38-year-old Kelvin Davis who proceeded to keep us out. He made superb saves to deny both Vokes and Danny Ings while Southampton also received help from referee Roger East who somehow failed to give us a penalty when George Boyd was felled in the box. Soon after, assistant Andy Garrett ignored Ings being pulled down and almost immediately, against the run of play, we went behind.

Jason Shackell headed out a ball into the box from the left but only to Nathaniel Clyne who played it back in. Michael Duff inexplicably dropped onto the line and in doing so left Shane Long onside and unmarked. He made no mistake.

The second half started quietly but we were hopeful with us still just a goal behind. There was little action at either end but just before the hour they got their second and deciding goal when Shackell turned a cross into his own net.

At 1-0 there seemed at hope, at 2-0 it disappeared both on and off the pitch. As the Burnley fans accepted the inevitable, the performance dropped and we offered precious little for the remainder of the game.

Hopes had been high before the game after the 1-0 win against Manchester City a week earlier, but we remained third from bottom when a win would have lifted us two places.

The teams were;

Southampton: Fraser Forster (Kelvin Davis 14), Nathaniel Clyne, José Fonte, Toby Alderweireld, Ryan Bertrand, Dusan Tadic (Victor Wanyama ht), Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, Sadio Mané, Graziano Pelle, Shane Long. Subs not used: Maya Yoshida, Florin Gardos, Filip Djuricic, James Ward-Prowse, Eljero Elia.

Burnley: Tom Heaton, Kieran Trippier, Michael Duff, Jason Shackell, Ben Mee, George Boyd, Scott Arfield, David Jones, Ashley Barnes (Ross Wallace 82), Danny Ings (Marvin Sordell 88), Sam Vokes (Lukas Jutkiewicz 74). Subs not used: Matt Gilks, Steven Reid, Michael Keane, Michael Kightly.

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