Friday means free-kicks! After reviewing Matt Le Tissier’s finest set-pieces last week, today it’s the turn of James Ward-Prowse for our latest countdown…
5. Going low at The Hawthorns
3rd February 2018
Ward-Prowse’s second Premier League free-kick came against the same team as his first, and at the expense of a goalkeeper who features more than once in this list. Saints already led 2-1 at The Hawthorns when they were awarded a free-kick right on the edge of the West Brom box, just left of centre. Realising it was probably too close to dip it over the wall, Ward-Prowse opted to take the low road, using Gareth Barry as a guide to whip the ball around the midfielder, leaving Ben Foster little time to react as it whistled past his outstretched left hand.
4. Off the mark against West Brom
16th January 2016
His first successful strike was also his first goal of any description to arrive at St Mary’s, having only previously found the net on the road. Purely for the quality of the free-kick, this has to be up there with Ward-Prowse’s very best, given the angle and distance from which he let fly – at least six yards outside the penalty area and wide enough that he was almost in line with the left corner of the box. But none of that fazed him, five minutes into the game, as he unleashed a wonderfully-whipped effort that nestled just inside Boaz Myhill’s near post.
3. Beating De Gea from distance
2nd March 2019
Another factor that has to come into judging these free-kicks is the quality of the opposition goalkeeper, and five-time PFA Team of the Year nominee David De Gea represented a worthy adversary between the sticks at Old Trafford. Trailing 2-1 with 15 minutes to go, Saints needed something, and Ward-Prowse duly provided it with an inch-perfect set-piece. This was another one from a deceptively wide angle, more than 25 yards from goal, which had to be absolutely on the money to find the net. That’s exactly what it was – just inside the post and just underneath the crossbar – to draw Saints level.
2. Clinching victory over Watford
30th November 2019
After an encouraging start, Saints’ current campaign hit a rocky patch in the autumn after the euphoria of trouncing Portsmouth in late September. Taking just two points from the team’s next seven league games and still without a win at home, the pressure was on when Watford arrived at St Mary’s at the end of November. Behind at half time, Saints drew level 12 minutes from time through Danny Ings, before the stage was set for Ward-Prowse when a free-kick was awarded five minutes later. Way out towards the left corner of the area, he beat Foster high to his right to win the game in the most dramatic fashion.
1. St Mary’s heroics against Spurs
9th March 2019
It’s easy to forget this was Saints’ very next game after Ward-Prowse struck gold at Old Trafford, so there was a wave of expectation inside St Mary’s when he stood over another free-kick against Tottenham. It was a match that followed a very similar pattern to the Watford encounter, with Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side having just drawn level inside the last 15 minutes. In contrast, this time the ball was spotted very centrally, leaving World Cup-winning goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in two minds. When Ward-Prowse opted to curl it away from the Frenchman towards his right-hand upright, Lloris was left clutching at thin air, and Saints had three crucial points on the road to survival.