The despicable Charlie Austin left his odious mark on a game long on endeavour and rather shorter on quality, but a deserved point could prove invaluable for Town in the final analysis.
It is worth getting Austin out of the way early. Why this idiot felt it necessary to goad Huddersfield Town supporters after poaching the lead for the Saints when stooping to head in from close range is beyond comprehension. Joined by the ear cupping Ward-Prowse, the ex Swindon and QPR striker celebrated for an inordinately long time in front of the visiting fans and the provocation was genuinely baffling – the only history he has with Town is his Trevor Senior like ability to score against us.
His assault on Lössl, however, placed him way beyond the pale. With the ball safely in his arms, the Dane should have been easily avoided – indeed, it was Austin’s responsibility to ensure a collision didn’t occur – but the Saint left his foot high and seemed to flick it in the direction of the keeper’s face.
It was a cowardly challenge, violent and deliberate which should have seen him dismissed. Probert, predictably, took no action but the FA surely will.
Picking up from where they left off in the hugely encouraging win at Watford, Town started brightly and created good chances in an opening 20 minutes which saw them subdue the home team and their almost silent crowd.
Mooy saw a decent opportunity blocked and Van La Parra, who was largely anonymous on a day when Town’s threat came mainly down the right, miscued when free in the area before Schindler forced a very good save from Forster who touched away his headed effort on to the bar.
Town’s intensity harassed the Saints who couldn’t find any sort of rhythm and it was much against the run of play that the hosts took the lead on 24 minutes. A rather cheap corner was lofted in to the apparently unmarked Hoedt whose flick found Austin a yard out. The striker, rather appropriately, stooped low to give the home side an undeserved lead.
Despite one or two flurries, again mainly involving Ince and Hadergjonaj down the right, Town struggled to reassert their previous authority and Lössl, carrying on despite the ugly challenge, had to save smartly from Tadic before nearly presenting thug Austin his second with a mishit clearance before recovering to deal with an attempted chip with some comfort.
Buoyed by their lead, Southampton changed the momentum of the contest and Town needed to see out the second half of the first 45 without further concession. It was slightly uncomfortable at times, but the visitors remained solid.
An uneventful start to the second half saw Town struggle to create and Depoitre became too isolated. A Mooy free kick which sailed over the bar from 25 yards was the only effort of note from either side, and Wagner withdrew the quietly ineffective Van La Parra on the hour for Lolley and Smith replaced Hadergjonaj.
In between the substitutions, the football gods delivered some karma for Austin. Redmond outstripped the Town defence and squared to his unmarked colleague only for the gams miscreant to fire wide from an excellent position and an opportunity to seal the points was forsaken.
It was a pivotal moment as within a few minutes, Town worked the ball well to substitute Smith whose cross found Depoitre unmarked and able to direct a powerful header past Forster. Despite being a little fortunate not to be 2 down, Town nevertheless deserved their equaliser and none more so than the now free scoring Belgian whose movement in the box created the space between the central defenders.
Shortly afterwards, Ince narrowly failed to connect with an excellent Quaner ball in to the box – the goal simply won’t come for the ex Derby man but his performances continue to make up for his frustration.
Karma returned for Austin on 80 minutes when Lössl’s slip handed the miscreant another chance to seal the points but a rushed volley allowed the keeper to atone with a decent save and, simultaneously and deliciously, caused what can only be hoped is serious damage to Austin’s hamstring.
Lössl is performing well – and should be commended for carrying on after a painful injury – but his propensity for making a hash of clearances (twice in this game alone), really needs to be eliminated.
With 10 minutes to go, Depoitre was withdrawn as Town looked to secure a vital point. His unstinting work up front is crucial to the Terriers, particularly away from home, and it was another excellent performance from the Belgian. Sadly, his replacement, Mounié, in contrast, put in a pretty awful, listless display making little impact. His failure to release the hard working Lolley – who was effective and rather good on his first meaningful appearance – breaking menacingly on the left epitomised the striker’s lacklustre cameo, as did his failure to put any pressure on the home defence in the air.
With four minutes injury time to go, Town looked good value for their point but Smith gave away a cheap free kick to present the Saints with a final chance to grab all three points. Yoshida met a great delivery by Ward-Prowse only to see his header hit the post, rebound on to Lössl and finally cleared.
Despite riding their luck on a few occasions, the visitors had contributed well to a lively 90 minutes and with 22 points accumulated by the halfway stage, look well placed to avoid what many outsiders considered an inevitable drop back to the Championship.
The performance was far from flawless but every positive result on the road after the terrible away record after Palace is to be cherished.
Despite winning yesterday, Town’s next opponents Stoke remain fragile (highlights suggest their 3-1 win over West Brom was a little flattering) and Burnley’s admirable progress towards European qualification may be hitting something of a bump with goals drying up and the loss of an important defender. Opportunity knocks for the Terriers to turn two festive home games in to maximum points.