Wotte's men grab Watford lifeline
Tues 7th April 2009
Forget rulebook loop-poles & spineless FA inquests, it was centre back JP Saeijs - with a little help from Watford`s Danny Rose - who produced a stay of execution for Southampton in the 2-2 draw with Watford.
The towering Dutch defender produced a last gasp, curling, swirling 35 yard belter of a free kick with just seconds left on the clock to rescue a point for the Saints after a comeback from Watford who "weren`t at their best" according to Brendan Rodgers.
But a Saeijs strike that was worthy of taking all 3 points really should have been a scant consolation but for Danny Rose`s howler of a miss from 2 yards off the goal line deep into injury time.
Think Ronnie Rosenthal`s miss against Villa - only much, much, much worse.
It was the least Saints deserved in fairness after a spirited performance full of pace, passion and urgency with Jason Euell`s experience and the quality of Ryan Smith`s set-pieces causing problems all night long.
Saeijs had given Saints a worthy lead with a 13th minute bullet header after losing Priskin in a crowded box to meet Smith`s inswinging corner - the Hornets clearly hadn`t learnt their lessons from minutes earlier when a spot of pinball resulted in Mariappa hacking another flag kick off the line.
In fact, had Loach not brilliantly kept out a point black Chris Perry far post header with a low, lunging save, Watford could well have been 2-0 down by the time Aleks Cauna  got lucky with a skimming daisy cutter from the edge of the box to draw level.
The Latvian debut boy saw his power drive go straight through Kelvin Davis at his near post in the Saints goal to the bemusement of the Vicarage Road faithful.
Brendan Rodgers reckons that pint-sized Cauna has "one of the hardest shots" in football and "it was probably the power" that beat the keeper - VitalWatford reckon it was just one massive balls-up from the ex Luton Down Scummer between the sticks.
Elsewhere and Priskin tried his damnedest to repeat his Doncaster success with a couple of cute byline pull-backs (but sadly no welcoming kneecaps to divert the ball home) whilst McAnuff was giving Rudi Skacel the roasting of a lifetime out wide on the right.
Be under no illusions though. When Priskin  headed Watford in front (via a beautiful little flick on from Jack Corks gorgeous locks) it was harsh reward for a limp performance that was flat and, at times, lacked the focus of recent weeks.
Yes, ok so maybe just maybe Watford could have had a couple of penalty awards - arms all over Williamson at a corner was nailed on for a spot kick whilst whether McAnuff was rashly bought down by Skacel in or just outside box is questionable.
What isn`t up for debate though is why the Saints full back wasn`t shown red for a professional foul as last man! That`s twice in 2 home games now - but bemoaning the ref`s decision to flash a yellow would paper over the fact that Watford were second best for long periods.
Brendan Rodgers might well insist that he thought Watford would "go on to win by 3 or 4 goals" when 2-1 up but Saints were the better side, playing the better footie and had Jason Euell bought his shooting boots up from the South Coast it could well have been 3 or 4 the other way!
The Hornets lacked killer instinct and that was no better highlighted by Tommy Smith and, strangely, Priskin as they both fired harmlessly off-target when 1-on-1 with the keeper in the box. Where was the cool, calm, collected finishing we`ve come to expect from both men?
Yet, their misses stood in the shadow compared to Danny Rose`s howler of a miss in injury time. The on loan Spurs winger had already broken the 100m world record with his pace flying down the flank earlier in the half only to completely miss the ball 2 yards from the goalline after Smith beaten the keeper.
How ironic then that the Rookery had already sung "That`s why you`re going down" at the despairing Saints fans as Euell wasted a glorious opportunity, tamely shooting down Loach`s throat with the goal at his mercy minutes before Priskin pounced to put the Hornets in front.
The difference is that even after putting in a lacklustre showing, Watford no longer look like a side on the brink of relegation. Brendan Rodgers insisted afterwards that "Watford will not go down now" and we are inclined to agree with him.
Saints on the other hand, well it`s a difficult one to call. Mark Wotte (doing his best impression of a Dutch Steve McClaren) reckoned he "was very happy with the point" and he and his bench celebrated the 88th minute salvage like they`d won the World Cup and Champions League all in one.
But on the evidence of their crisp, free flowing, passing game - if that is type of performance you get for immorally flaunting FA laws then bring on the rule books and we`ll look for a gap in the legislation for Watford to exploit ahead of next season!