With just a few thousand supporters spattered around the St.Mary’s stadium, this final warm up game had an almost eerie atmosphere.
The few hundred die-hard traveling supporters, however, at least did their best to make a noise.
Wolves started with the eleven who finished the Shrewsbury game, with the exception of Sigurdason, who replaced the injured Doyle up front.
And it was a very promising start as Wolves continued with their new possession based style, dominating long periods of play. Indeed, they should have taken the lead early on when Blake, who was put clean through from a good ball by Ward, allowed his weak effort to be smothered by the keeper.
With the wide men, Forde and Davis tucked in, most of the threat out wide came from the marauding full backs. Zubar, in particular, found himself in dangerous positions but was unable to supply much in the way of a telling cross.
Gradually, Southampton got an increasing grip on the game and their possession play had a more direct and dangerous character. Not unusually, their wide men were allowed plenty of space and seemed to be able to deliver crosses at will. One such from the right caused confusion in the defence and was returned from the left for Sharp to sweep home. Another cheap goal and all too familiar.
The second half continued in much the same fashion. Wolves playing in a more patient controlled fashion but not offering much as an attacking threat. Occasionally, Blake and Sigurdason worked an opening, the best of which ended with Blake firing across the area only for Davies to shoot wide when it looked easier to score.
The game was finished as a contest in the 69th minute when Puncheon fired crisply into the bottom right hand corner.
After that, the game petered out as Southampton produced an endless series of substitutions, two by two; Noah might have filled the Ark more quickly.
Individually, there were some plus points. Ikeme showed that we have a few keepers who could do the job. Johnson again looked full of purpose and dealt with most of the aerial threat. The ubiquitous Henry was full of energy and intent.
Doumbia, Tuesday’s man of the match, had a much quieter game. Asked to play deep alongside Henry, he played the minor role. Late on, when Jonnson replaced Blake, he played to some effect in the ‘hole’ behind the striker as part of a 5 man midfield. We may see more of this.
On the down side, we never really got out of second gear and our attacks looked familiarly ponderous. Forde and Davis offered little as an attacking threat. Forde looks a little light- weight and it’s hard to see that someone with more pace like Kightly would not be a better option. Possibly Ward with a nice quick full back in his stead? We can only dream!
Watching the team trying to adapt to this very new style of possession play is a little uncomfortable at times. It looks like it is a new difficult skill that they can perform but only very slowly and with deep concentration. It doesn’t come naturally and they are finding it hard.
It’s a skill that has been neglected for too long and it’s going to take time. It has to be done though and it will be worth the wait.