Monday, 28 April 2008

Battling Saints Performance Restores Hope

The unpredictable nature of football was demonstrated once again tonight, as a seventy-seventh minute goal from Adam Lallana saw Saints crash West Brom's promotion party. Though the 1-1 draw was not enough to lift Saints out of the drop-zone, a strong performance has restored hope amongst Saints fans that survival is possible. Saints held their own in the first half, with a potential penalty and a glorious chance for Marek Saganowski going astray. The second half saw West Brom get into their groove, but they could not stop super-sub Lallana drilling home against the run of play. Saints were only able to hold on for seven minutes, until Chris Brunt's equaliser broke red and white hearts. Though Saints will start the final day in the drop-zone, this result went some way to restoring courage after the disappointment of the Burnley match.

A Funny Old Game

If there's one thing I've learnt about Saints after years of support, it's that they never do things the easy way. That will certainly be the case if they stay up on Sunday. For although a point away at West Brom is a good result in anyone's book, Saints will enter the final day with their destiny out of their own hands. Still, with Leicester, Sheffield United, Blackpool and Coventry still in contention for the drop, a variety of outcomes are still possible, especially given the fixtures these clubs face.

Blackpool vs Watford
Charlton vs Coventry
Sheffield Wed vs Norwich
Stoke City vs Leicester

With Sheffield Utd still in play-off contention, the difficulty of Saints' final home fixture should not be underestimated. It will take a heroic performance at St Marys to secure the three points. However, if Saints do win, it will take an unlikely set of results to see them relegated, including a Leicester win away to in-form, automatic promotion-chasing Stoke. While a win for Sheffield Wed at home to Norwich is more likely, and Coventry could pick something up at the Valley, Blackpool could slip up at home to play-off contenders Watford.

Still In It

Tonight's point was massive for three reasons. First, such a strong performance has restored a little hope that survival is very possible. Secondly, it means that a point at home to Sheff Utd could be enough if Leicester lose. Finally, it has dragged Coventry and Blackpool into the relegation picture. All of these factors improve Saints odds of survival, and I know I would not exchange final fixtures and positions with Leicester if given the chance. There is still more than an outside chance of relegation. But tonight has provided a massive boost for Saints, hopefully at just the right time.

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