Saturday, 28 February 2009

Crikey! He does know Wotte he's doing

The worst thing about relegation in 2005 was the hope that preceded it. After a miserable season, there were moments towards its end that suggested survival was possible, that we could repeat the miraculous escapes of the 90s. The death-knell sounded by Ruud Van Nistelrooy's cruelly simple headed goal on that fateful May day was all the harder to bear given the previously reborn dreams.

Today's victory against promotion-chasing Cardiff served two purposes: it secured their first back-to-back wins all season; and it rekindled hope that survival is possible after months of despair had led to the death of hope. If Saints are to disappear into League One this season, this result will make it all the harder to take. For hope is reborn.

Saints 1 - Cardiff 0

Make no mistake, relegation is still odds-on for Saints this season. A series of excellent results for their fellow strugglers means they are still three points adrift. However, Mark Wotte has achieved twice in three games what Jan Poortvliet could only manage once in fourteen. His home successes have offered Saints fans the tantalising prospect of survival and the oh-so-dangerous taste of hope. If he can continue in this vein, Saints' seemingly inevitable descent into footballing oblivion may yet be averted

In the event, David McGoldrick's tenth minute penalty proved enough to separate the sides. With reports in today's papers suggesting Saints have a 50-50 chance of going into administration in the next fortnight, this brace of results may have come at just the right time to rally the club into reversing their apparently bottomless fall.

It seems perverse to take such pleasure from a team that has dispensed misery in such volume this season but I am guilty of such perversion tonight. I admit to being excited about the forthcoming dog-fight, a good old tasty relegation battle to infuse the senses and rally the troops.
I know there is pain to come (maybe much of it) but I will enjoy the highs while they come and forget the broader toils of the club. All we have is now, and now is the time to fight for the red and white, the time to get behind the boys - now is the time for hope.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

YES! Surprise win rekindles hope of greatest escape yet

It is a terrible indictment on Saints' season that yesterday's home win against promotion-chasing Preston felt miraculous- but after just one home win all season this result was a real surprise. After midweek results had left Saints six points adrift of safety, many fans had given up hope of survival. But if Mark Wotte's young side can continue in this vein, the last thirteen games could prove very interesting indeed.

Saints 3 - Preston 1

Delivering the goals that Mark Wotte has been calling for this week, a Marek Saganowski double added to Andrew Surman's strike to leave Preston three behind at half time. Season-ticket holders at last had something to cheer about after a miserable few months and the side, to their credit, were able to play out the second half (the only blip coming with a late Preston goal). Survival still seems unlikely, but with Nottingham Forest now well within Saints' sights, another home win against Cardiff on Saturday will get them right back into contention.

After another fan protest before the match heaped more pressure on Rupert Lowe and the Saints board, this result at last gives fans something to smile about. A decade after Marian Pahars fired Saints to safety, could the Great Escape 2009 be back on?

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Another matchday, another defeat Saints can ill-afford

Saints slipped to another costly defeat yesterday, unable to break through the defences of an average Bristol City side. Given City's impressive record against the Championship's lesser sides this year, this result will have taken few by surprise. It will come, however, as another massive blow for Mark Wotte's dwindling hopes of salvaging survival in the final quarter of a wretched season.

Bristol City 2 - Saints 0

Saints had some chances and the final result was by no means a fair reflection of the game - the second goal came in stoppage time after Kelvin Davies came up for a corner - but that will provide no comfort for Saints fans who saw their side slip to five points adrift of safety. With thirteen games left, Saints now have to win in their upcoming home games against Cardiff and Preston or relegation, already a likely prospect, will be almost nailed-on.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Saints slump further in the bleak, bleak midwinter

Saints' slim survival hopes took a further massive hit tonight, as Mark Wotte's side crashed to yet another woeful home defeat against Sheffield United. Coming on the back of an average point against Swansea at the weekend, Saints fans, who have suffered long this season, were offered no sign of the end in sight on another horrible night at St Mary's.

Saints 2 - Swansea 2
Saints 1 - Sheffield Utd 2

Having played a game more than their rivals, Saints now lie three points adrift of safety. Andrew Surman's ninetieth minute leveller offered hope, but a lame Saints outfit could not even hang on for a point, with Jamie Ward punishing an exposed back line in stoppage time. Again, the side lacked width and penetration and could not capitalise upon the first-half dismissal of Darius Henderson to secure their second home win of the season. Whether that will ever be secured is now a matter for serious debate, as "home advantage" has only applied to Saints in oxymoronic terms this season.

The appointment of Mark Wotte looks more misguided than ever and, unless he can pull off what would now certainly constitute a miracle, the pain looks likely to continue down into League 1 and financial oblivion. It is a wonder that supporting the same club can provoke such contrasts of joy and misery within just the space of a few years. Another record-low league crowd attendence - which cannot be blamed upon the snow - again demonstrated how fans have lost faith in the side. As Rupert Lowe prepares to take the club to their second relegation in four years - and the previous regime is far from blameless - he must be wondering whether football is really worth it. It is a thought he would have in common with thousands of Saints fans tonight.

Which team will fill the third relegation spot?

Four games left. Will Saints survive?

Would you be in favour of a return for Rupert?