Monday, 21 April 2008

League 1 Here We Come?

Saints stare into the abyss

Saturday didn't feel right from the start. From the poor weather to the god-awful fans' chanting competition, there was an edgy pre-match atmosphere at St. Marys. Following excellent, morale-boosting results against Bristol City and Charlton, many (including myself) thought that a home win against nothing-to-play-for Burnley would virtually see Saints to safety. The complacency was misplaced. Stunned Saints fans watched in horror as their team slumped to a horrific 1-0 defeat, despite largely outplaying the opposition. Make no mistake about it: Saints are now the favourites to fill that final relegation spot and face one hell of a scrap to maintain their Championship status. Just five years after reaching the FA Cup Final, Saints now face the very real prospect of playing in the third tier of English football for the first time in forty-eight years.

Saints feel the Burn(ley)

Despite dominating the first half, Saints were let down by a lack of creativity in the final third. Their failure to convert possession into goals, or even meaningful chances, proved costly, as poor defending saw Burnley score from a corner on the brink of half time. In the second half Saints players were struck by the jitters, Stern John in particular missing two golden opportunites. Richard Wright, Andrew Surman and Youssef Safri were rare rays of sunshine in an otherwise limp display, especially given the importance of the game. The boos that rang out at the final whistle were not only due to the perilous situation Saints now find themselves in; there was a widespread feeling of disbelief that the players could turn in such a lacklustre display at such a pivotal moment in the club's history.

The Mother of all Dog-fights

With other results going against them on Saturday, just one point stands between Saints and a second relegation in four years. And with two very tough fixtures remaining (Away vs West Brom, Home vs Sheff. Utd), Saints are now the bookie's choice to go down. Their only hope is if Sheffield Wednesday lose away to Leicester and Saints manage a win at home to Sheffield. Utd on the final day of the season. It is hard to envisage Wednesday failing to pick up any points from
their final two matches, nor Saints getting anything at West Brom. Still, football is a topsy-turvy game and you just never know with Saints. They may have lost the "easy" one but who would have predicted their win against Bristol?

It wasn't meant to be like this

Saturday provided a reminder of just how cruel football can be. Yet while things look grim, the club's destiny remains in its own hands, and the fanbase must unite in the belief that we can go to the Hawthorns and get something. I honestly believe we can, as Leicester did last month. Such a result could see Saints back on the road to safety. Despite the anger felt towards the players, the board, the manager, whoever, it is now all-important that Saints fan unite to cling to that hope.

PS. Apologies for the belated post. It takes a while to gather thoughts after a result as terrible as Saturday's.

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