Cardiff City 2 Southampton 1: Burley focuses on Brighton clash

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The Independent Football

By Amar Azam

The small band of Southampton supporters who travelled to Wales for their side's last game of the year could have done without any reminders about just how difficult 2005 had been for them.

Chants of "you're not famous anymore" and "there's only one Harry Redknapp" from a vocal home contingent did just that, and defeat to Cardiff City, the new manager George Burley's third consecutive loss, emphasised to the Scot just how big a task he faces in returning the club to the top flight.

However, he said his immediate thoughts were on today's visit of Brighton and Hove Albion before an appraisal of the challenge facing him. "We need to focus on the game against Brighton and get through that. Then I will sit down with the staff and [the performance director] Clive Woodward and the chairman and assess where we go and what we need.

"There is a lot of work to be done and the fans can see that. There is no quick fix. I would love to come in and just win a few games, but we need to look at the long-term picture."

Southampton came into this Championship clash after defeats to Watford and Sheffield United. There was promise in the display against United, however, and although that result was not one he would have wanted for his first home game in charge, Burley was treated to a performance that was brimming with industry and endeavour.

Against Cardiff that promise disappeared; their display lacked any resilience and they handed the points to Dave Jones' side, who won for the first time in four games.

Cardiff scored in the sixth minutethrough Joe Ledley. Smart build-up work by Jason Koumas - the best performer in a drab contest - and Cameron Jerome left Southampton's defence in disarray and Ledley took advantage to force the ball past Antti Niemi, Southampton's goalkeeper.

Ledley then turned provider two minutes later, threading a deft ball through a static defence to Jerome, who calmly beat Niemi.

Although the visitors' attacking showed little menace throughout the match, they found themselves back in the game somewhat fortuitously, in the 25th minute. The striker Dexter Blackstock took advantage of Cardiff's defensive uncertainty caused by Niemi's goal-kick, and poked the ball past the goalkeeper Neil Alexander.

The rest of the game was largely forgettable, with few goal-scoring opportunities. Southamptonfans will certainly want to forget - not just this game, but their team's past year. And they will be hoping that the new year is one to remember.

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