Saturday, 25 October 2008

Swans see off poor Saints

Saints failed to pick up some much need points this afternoon, an abject display seeing them go down 3-0 away to Swansea City. Following their goalless midweek draw against Sheffield United, confidence in the side seems to be at an all time low after their third three-goal reverse in four games.

Sheffield United 0 - Saints 0
Swansea City 3 - Saints 0

Saints picked up a good away point at Brammall Lane on Tuesday but could not build on that today. A poor display was described by former Saint David Armstrong as their "worst of the season," two goals after half time seeing Saints off after being one behind at the interval. Although an away defeat is not the end of the world, the scale of the defeat, combined with Saints' failure to produce any significant chances is worrying. It will give head coach Jan Poortvliet much to ponder as the winter fixtures approach, especially in light of their precarious league position. The encouraging wins against Doncaster and Norwich seem a long way off now, and, although it may be early to say it, Saints seem to be heading for a long and hard relegation battle.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Saints slump as fortune favours the save

Defeats either side of the international break have left Saints perilously close to the relegation zone with over a quarter of a season gone. Following encouraging wins against Doncaster and Norwich, the young side have slumped to three-goal reverses against Coventry and Watford.

Coventry 4 – Saints 1
Saints 0 – Watford 3

Coming at the end of an exhausting spell of games, the Coventry game looked like a blip, with a mistake-filled performance costing Saints dear. However, the rot seems to have set in as they resumed their league campaign with a disastrous result at home to Watford today. A superb start to the game went unrewarded, as David McGoldrick missed a penalty in the third minute. Somehow, Watford then took the lead from a set-piece. But Saints continued to press and won another penalty soon after. Sickeningly, Paul Wotton was also unable to convert and it truly felt like it wasn’t going to be Saints’ day. So it proved, with Watford scoring a further couple from set-plays before the break.

The three goal half time lead proved unassailable and Jan Poortvliet will have much to mull over in the coming days. His pre-game target of six wins from the next ten games looks ambitious indeed and the side must pick themselves up for the test of Sheffield United on Tuesday night. This rollercoaster of a season doesn’t look like calming down soon, with Michael Wilde acknowledging in private the urgent need for more experience in the side. Saints were definitely very unlucky, but the season is going to prove tough going if they continue to throw away chances as they did today.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Newboy shines as St Mary's treated to a dose of the good stuff

The good times returned to St Mary’s last night as another record-low crowd roared Saints onto their first home win of the season. It has been a long time coming, but consecutive wins have seen Saints shoot up the table to a position of mid-table security.

Saints 2 - Norwich 0 (Robertson, McGoldrick)

There were many strange moments last night, not least when the announcer felt the need to quote a Blur lyric in front of 15,000 people ("Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as Parklife") during the half-time shootout. Stranger still were many of the referee's decisions in an exciting match which saw both sides miss a bundle of simple chances. But both decisions and missed chances seemed to even out in the end as Saints were able to preserve their third clean sheet in four league outings, largely thanks to the outstanding efforts of Kelvin Davies between the sticks.

It would be unfair on Saints to give their 'keeper all the credit. But after dominating the first ten minutes and McGoldick hitting the post, Norwich seemed to be in the ascendancy. Saints were run ragged as Norwich piled the pressure on their inexperienced full-backs Joseph Mills and Lloyd James and a goal seemed inevitable. And, what a goal. During a rare foray into the Norwich half new loan signing Jordan Robertson received the ball in space outside the penalty area and delivered a cool, curling strike that looped beyond the diving 'keeper's reach to nestle in the top-right corner. What a debut goal. It was totally against the run of play, but Saints have been due some luck this season and the side was able to see the lead out to half time without too many nervy moments.

(Debut goalscorer, Jordan Robertson, on loan from Sheffield Utd. Nathan Dyer has gone in the opposite direction. Pic: Daily Echo)

The exciting, end-to-end football continued in the second half, with both sides going close before the moment that changed the match. The ever-dynamic Adam Lallana was brought down by Dejan Stevanovic just inside the area and the referee instantly pointed to the spot and brandished the ex-Skate with a straight red card. Glenn Roeder was left incensed on the touchline as his departing centre-half was treated to a special performance of "You Skate B******!" from the St Mary’s choir. David McGoldrick put the faithful's minds at rest as he coolly despatched the penalty. Both sides continued to go close in a frenzied St Mary’s atmosphere, but nothing was going to take the glass off this important victory and for all Norwich's missed chances, Saints could have easily had a couple more.

St Marys erupted at the final whistle after a truly moral-boosting night. With any luck, Saints can continue to push on up the table and put any relegation worries behind them. However, this is still going to be a long season with many twists and turns. Confidence is truly the key for this young side and consecutive league wins will have restored much of it. Maybe that stadium announcer had a point after all.

Which team will fill the third relegation spot?

Four games left. Will Saints survive?

Would you be in favour of a return for Rupert?