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Monday, March 22, 2010

JPT Final: Saints to go marching on?

We begin our look ahead to this weekend's JPT final as Turls takes a look at the pre-match favourites - Southampton.

Manager: Alan Pardew

It is not a massive shock to see the Saints in the JPT Final.

Were it not for their ten point deduction at the start of the season, they would probably be challenging at the top end of the table rather than being resigned to a place in mid-table.

A solid and reliable team has been formed by Saints' boss Alan Pardew.

The man who almost guided West Ham to FA Cup glory could count himself a little unlucky to be languishing in League One.

He is a good manager though and will know that he has the chance to build a strong team that rise through the ranks of the Football League.

Pardew has always been a passionate man and taking his club to Wembley - albeit in the JPT - will mean a lot to the man and the fans.

Key Players:

Pardew is responsible for signing Southampton's deadliest weapon.

Rickie Lambert had impressed a lot of people with his goals at Bristol Rovers and when Saints spent over £1 million on the free-scoring striker, a select few questioned whether he was worth that much money.

Twenty-six goals and a JPT Final appearance later, not many people are questioning the decision any more.

The Liverpool-born striker has been in prolific form this season and will undoubtedly be playing higher up the Football League in years to come.

For now, all he should be concerned with is winning the JPT with Southampton.

Lee Barnard is another Pardew signing and the former Southend striker has settled into the Saints team with ease.

Goals are never going to be an issue with Lambert and Barnard on the pitch and with Adam Lallana pulling the strings behind the strikers, there should be plenty of chances for the forwards to continue their scoring form.

Defensively, Pardew has established a strong back line with the team only conceding 35 goals in 34 league games.

With players like Radhi Jaidi, Jon Otsembor, and Jose Fonte, the Saints have been strong enough at the back to allow their more creative players licence to play attacking football.

The stand out defensive story has to come in the shape of Kelvin Davies. The former Sunderland keeper had the chance to stay at the Wearside club as a second choice stopper.

However, in a bid to play more football, Davies chose to move to St Mary's and he has impressed the Southampton faithful with his commitment and quality performances.

Davies is clearly a keeper who should be playing at a higher level but he seems happy to be playing first team football again.

Whether he will still be at St Mary's is a cause for concern for the Saints management but they are safe in the knowledge that they will have one of the league's best stoppers doing his best to prevent Carlisle from scoring at the weekend.


Last 6 Games: W4 D0 L2 GF15 GA4

In their last game — away to MK Dons — Rickie Lambert scored a hat-trick. Carlisle beware.

Southampton have been in free-scoring form in the last month and with only two defeats in their last six games — away to Tranmere and at home to Swindon — the Saints look like they mean business.

Having scored five past both Huddersfield and Walsall, goals are clearly not a problem for the South Coast club.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that they ship them in but having conceded only four goals in the last six, the defence looks just as impressive as their attack.

Consistency has been an issue though with their last five games reading WLWLW. If this is anything to go by, Carlisle will be looking to cause an upset and travel back to Cumbria with the title.

Rickie Lambert scored a hat-trick at the weekend at Milton Keynes Dons

Road To Wembley:

v Torquay: 2-2 (Southampton won 5-3 on penalties)

After going into the half-time break 2-0 down, it looked like the Saints JPT dream would end as quickly as it began.

Although Southampton started the brighter, Torquay had come out with the intention of going for the win and when they got the first goal, they continued to push and eventually got the second.

However, two second half goals from Ndiaye Papa Waigo swung the tie back in Southampton's favour but they were unable to capitalise on the momentum. The game went to penalties and the Saints' class showed through as they won 5-3.

Penalty shoot out saves from Kelvin Davies helped Saints see off Torquay

v Charlton: 2-1

Nearly 14,000 people packed into St Mary's to see Southampton comfortably beat a tricky Charlton.

With Pardew keen to get one over his former employers, goals from Wayne Thomas in the first-half and Rickie Lambert in the second ensured a solid win for the Saints.

A late push from the Addicks did nothing to dampen the mood and, although Southampton did concede a late goal, a place in the semi-final was already being planned.

Wayne Thomas celebrates his goal for Saints against Charlton at St. Mary's

v Norwich: 2-2 (Southampton won 6-5 on penalties)

Another home draw saw them paired with a tough Norwich side that was beginning to find its feet under Paul Lambert.

With Grant Holt in a free-scoring mood, Saints fans had every right to question their sides ability to progress to the Southern final.

However, Southampton got off to a blistering start as Ndiaye Papa Waigo scored in the opening 15 minutes to give the hosts an early lead.

It was the first goal the Canaries had conceded in the competition and gave Saints fans a massive boost.

Pardew's side continued to attack and several passages of exciting football almost saw the hosts double their lead.

Norwich fought back with a 33rd minute goal and with momentum swinging their way, they took the lead in the second-half.

Saints huffed and puffed to get back into the tie and the goal eventually came thanks another Papa Waigo strike in injury time. Penalties beckoned again and, like last time, Saints held their nerve to progress to the next round.

Reserve keeper Bartosz Bialkowski was Southampton's penalty hero against Norwich

@ Milton Keynes Dons: 1-0
v Milton Keynes Dons: 3-1

Southampton got off to a dream start in the first leg of the Southern final. A 26th minute Antonio goal gave the Saints a 1-0 lead away from home as Pardew's side pushed on looking for another to seal the tie.

Having looked comfortable all game, the Saints eventually came under pressure in the final 10 minutes, as the Dons tried to salvage something from the game.

Southampton's defence held out and took a vital lead into the second leg — which would be held at St Mary's.

The second leg was something of a procession, as Rickie Lambert, Danny Woodards's own goal, and Adam Lallana gave the home side a comfortable 3-1 victory.

A Lambert goal in the 15th minute took all the pressure off the Saints and it showed as they looked comfortable on the ball and made the Dons chase shadows.

The MK Dons tried to lift their game but when Lallana scored late into the game, the gig was up for Paul Ince's men. Southampton had progressed to the JPT Final and would take a trip to Wembley for the first time in 18 years.

Saints celebrate another goal in the Southern Final against Milton Keynes

Tomorrow we look at Southampton's opponents in the Final - Carlisle United.

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