Sunday, 14 September 2008

Pressure starts to mount as Saints performances go unrewarded

Consecutive defeats for Saints have left them stranded in the relegation zone five matches into the new season. A disappointing home defeat against the physically stronger and more experienced Blackpool was followed by a loss at Loftus Road that may have all but ended Saints promotion hopes.

Saints 0 - Blackpool 1
QPR 4 - Saints 1

I was glad to miss the Blackpool game, being as I was in Cornwall, where only the weather proved as unpredictable as Saints' recent performances. Saints showed far more vigour in today's game at QPR, where a very good performance was marred by a sending-off and a terrible refereeing decision ruined their chances.

Jan Poortvliet summed it up, saying the final result owed more to decisions than to the standard of football played, although few would disagree with the decision to dismiss Olly Derbyshire after half an hour. That, following Dexter Blackstock's first minute opener, left Saints facing a real struggle to get anything from the game. The challenge, though not reckless, was late and appeared two-legged. Add to that the QPR player's proximity to the goal and he can have few reasons to complain.

QPR's second goal however proved far less dubious, with the goalscorer Stewart clearly offside when the ball was played. The offence could be measured in a matter of yards rather than inches, a poor error by the assistant referee, unforgivable as far as Saints fans are concerned. A quality finish from Adam Lallana came between QPR's goals. It was an awesome move from the side, "worthy of the Premiership" in the words of the Sky commentator. The brave equaliser was not enough, as the offside-decision-that-never-was followed. QPR's subsequent goals came in the dying moments, with a miss from Nathan Dyer signalling the end of Saints' resistance.

It was a disappointing result, leaving fans to wonder what might have been had Olly Lancashire chosen to stay on his feet. But there are many reasons to be positive, Saints' ten men matching, outfaring even, their opposition for large periods of the game. Saints look truly dangerous whenever they enter the final third, their pace and angled passing movements unnerving defenders at every turn. It cannot be long, surely, before Saints convert such performances into consistent results.

The blunt reality though is that Saints remain rooted in the relegation zone after consecutive defeats. The question is, can Saints start to produce the wins required before the threat of relegation becomes a millstone around their necks?


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