Manolo Gabbiadini’s left-footed effort from close range, his first goal since May, had threatened to give the hosts their first win since September. Jose Holebas’ second goal of the season rescued a point for Watford at Southampton as they climbed up to seventh in the Premier League.
Southampton’s failure to cling on to their lead leaves them hovering just above the relegation zone in 17th. It also ensured an unwanted record of failing to win any of their first six homes games in a season, for the first time in their history.
While four of those fixtures have ended in draws, their inability to convert promising situations into three points is likely to increase the pressure on manager Mark Hughes, with reports suggesting his job is on the line.
Hughes and his players were particularly perplexed at a decision to disallow a goal from Charlie Austin at 1-0 in the second half with referee Simon Hooper incorrectly believing the ball had gone in off Maya Yoshida, who was in an offside position.
However, Watford, who enjoyed some good fortune when Holebas’ effort deflected off home defender Cedric Soares, also felt aggrieved not to be awarded a penalty when Ryan Bertrand appeared to foul Nathaniel Chalobah.
In the end, Javi Gracia’s team merited their point and were the team pressing for a victory in the closing stages.
Hughes remains under pressure
Mark Hughes, who has now recorded just three victories in 20 league matches as Southampton manager, will be aware of the background noise questioning his position. However, Hughes has pointed to his “limited” input in recruitment – another key barometer of success.
The departures of technical director Martin Hunter and vice-chairman Les Reed on Thursday represented an acknowledgement of the club’s recent struggles in this area. Premier League finishes of eighth, seventh, sixth and eighth were largely constructed upon the club’s resourcefulness in the transfer market and the integration of those players into a clear football philosophy that allied neat passing with high pressing.
But replacing the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama, Dusan Tadic and Sadio Mane and expecting the same results and style of play is a difficult proposition. At St Mary’s on Saturday, Southampton’s fluency was largely sparked by Stuart Armstrong, starting only his second game since his £7m move from Celtic in the summer.
The Scotland winger linked well with Ryan Bertrand and Italian forward Gabbiadini and covered the most ground of any player in the first half. As he tired his influence waned, but Hughes must hope for more from Armstrong over the coming weeks to spark a revival.
Source: BBC News