Teams promoted to the Premier League have to learn quickly, but after 11 matches of the season it looks as though Southampton are not learning quickly enough. And one of the basic facts that some of their players simply refuse to absorb is that it is not enough to play better than your opponents.
You also have to avoid the sort of horrible, basic defensive error that handed Swansea a draw that they scarcely deserved.
True, the point took Nigel Adkins' side off the bottom of the table. They avoided a fourth successive defeat, and, for the first time this season, were not behind at any time of a match – but these were small consolations. A below-par Swansea, who have not won away in the league since the opening day of the season, represented an excellent opportunity to take three points.
Ahead through Morgan Schneiderlin's cleverly taken second goal of the season, Saints handed the equaliser to Swansea, and it will not take the sting away that it was scored by Nathan Dyer, a former Southampton trainee who left for the Liberty Stadium in 2009. It came as the result of an error by goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, who could have cleared a backpass from Maya Yoshida half the length of the field, but instead chose to play the ball back to the defender. Yoshida was robbed by Dyer, who ran on and shot in off the post.
"Unfortunately a poor decision by the young goalkeeper led to a goal," Adkins said. "We take the positives. Another point on the board, a good performance. Heads didn't go down and we kept pressing for goals."
Adkins is widely believed to be under pressure, but he is adamant that Nicola Cortese, the chairman, is behind him, and the fans made it plain with their vocal support that they certainly are. "Today you saw the whole football club is together as one, that is the message," Adkins said. "We are very positive about what we do. We worked hard to get here and we're working very hard to stay here."
Adkins spoke in the summer of emulating or bettering Swansea's achievements of last season, but that now looks a big ask. By this time a year ago, Swansea had already won three times and drawn four on their way to finishing 11th. Right now, Adkins would gladly settle for the skin-of-their-teeth 17th place managed by Queens Park Rangers. Next Saturday's match against QPR at Loftus Road takes on huge significance, with home games against Newcastle and Norwich to follow.
Their performance yesterday, though, should give them confidence. Michael Laudrup, the Swansea manager, felt that his team had "dominated" the first half, but Southampton had created more, and better, chances. Adam Lallana's 20-yard volley from Rickie Lambert's header was pushed aside by Gerhard Tremmell, and Jose Fonte passed with the goal at his mercy after a free-kick from Lallana. Swansea's only noteworthy effort before the interval came from Sung-Yong Ki, who made an opening with a cute turn then hit a shot that needed a good save from Gazzaniga.
The second half was a repeat performance as Southampton created chances but failed to take them. Gaston Ramirez, then Schneiderlin, both passed square when there was a chance to shoot. Finally, after 63 minutes, Southampton made the breakthrough. Yoshida crossed to the far post, where Lambert used his strength to head the ball back across goal. Schneiderlin took the ball on his chest and, as it bounced up between him and Tremmell, nodded it over the goalkeeper. All Southampton had to do was hang on, but Gazzaniga's rush of blood squandered the chance.
"The most positive things were the result and that once more the team showed character to come back to get the equaliser," Laudrup said. "We knew what to expect from Southampton. I don't know if 'desperate' is the right word, but they had a need for a home win. If it had been a boxing match, Southampton would have won on points. But it wasn't."
Southampton (4-4-1-1): Gazzaniga; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw (Fox, 72); Puncheon, Cork, Schneiderlin, Ramirez; Lallana; Lambert.
Swansea (4-2-1-3): Tremmell; Rangel, Williams, Monk, Davies; Britton (Shechter, 65), Ki, de Guzman (Agustien, 86); Hernandez, Michu, Routledge (Dyer, 56).
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Man of the match: Cork (Southampton)
Match rating: 6/10Reuse content