Southampton 1 Stoke City 1
Both Southampton and Stoke City have had indifferent weeks off the pitch.
Luckily for the sell-out crowd on the south coast it was the football that gave the respective sets of supporters a positive feeling going into the summer.
At St Mary’s, chairman Nicola Cortese had thrown his future at the club into doubt before the Italian was told he was part of their future plans. Whereas at the Britannia Stadium, it was end-of-season pranks out of control that dominated the headlines.
Striker Kenwyne Jones was omitted from their match-day squad after reports he had thrown a brick through the window of Glenn Whelan’s Porsche after the midfielder allegedly left a pig’s head in his locker.
Thankfully, the turmoil failed to overshadow either side’s preparations for their season finale.
Lambert had the ball in the back of the next after just 31 seconds, but it was correctly ruled out for offside.
Southampton have been a welcome addition to the top-flight this season, playing an attacking brand of football that has seen them become the giant-killers of the league.
This performance was proof it wasn’t just against Chelsea or Manchester City that Mauricio Pochettino’s side could raise their game.
Stoke attempted to play football on the ground, but with their aerial advantage always an obvious option, long-balls from defence were often favoured over playing from the back.
It might have been a dead rubber on paper, but this non-event could have been dubbed the £5million drop, such was the amount of money on offer between the possibility of finishing from 10th to 17th.
The Potters have so often attempted to shake off their long-ball tag and attempted to match Saints at their passing game. But with chances limited and Pochettino’s side pressing high the ball over the top proved to be the easiest option.
Jonathan Walters proved they can play football, however, and he produced Stoke’s most telling chance of the first half when he cut in and called Kelvin Davis into action.
Then true to form, it was a headed goal from Crouch two minutes into the second half that unlocked the Saints as Stoke stuck to what they are best at.
Their lead only lasted 10 minutes, though, as Lambert fired home from close range as he followed in Luke Shaw’s saved effort.
The English striker’s mid-season drought was finally over as he ended the season with a much-needed goal.
Lambert had battled on for more than 10 hours without a goal until now. And on a day when two English strikers scored, it was fitting that Stoke’s Michael Owen was given a late cameo to bring the curtain down on such an illustrious career.
The 33-year-old was unable to add to his 220 first-team goals on his 461st appearance and for some it may still be a career that fell short of such early promise.
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