Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Four games, fifteen goals - what have Saints been up to?

Apologies for the lack of action on these pages of late - I realise I have ignored a glut of Saints action. Before a quick catch-up, however, just a word to the wise for those who think that supporting Saints is tough. Having been taken to a Bradford game by a season ticket-holding friend on Saturday, I have a new empathy for those supporting other clubs who have had a tough few years.

Administration, relegation, player unrest - we haven't had the easiest time. But compare that to Bradford - who have had three demotions since their halcyon Premiership days in 2001 - and we can't complain. At least we now seem on the up; it is quite the opposite for the Bantams, languishing in League 2 nowhere land with a third of the season gone. Their stoppage time heartbreak against Accrington Stanley on Saturday - a disallowed goal, missed penalty and hit post - summed it up.

Us Saints fans, on the other hand, can look ahead with confidence after our revival under Pardew this year, with recent results taking us to a point from safety and the verge of a Wembley appearance.

Saints 2 - Charlton 1 (JP Trophy)

St Marys was again in fine voice for this midweek cup tie, as goals from Wayne Thomas and Ricky Lambert took Saints to the JP Trophy area semis - and to within three good results of a cup final. We may not be there yet but a potential day out at Wembley and even silverware - the third tier may not be so bad after all.

Saints 1 - Brighton 3

There are three potential factors to explain Saints' off-day the following Monday against local rivals Brighton. Cup success may have gone to their heads and forced them off the boil. The arrival of Brighton's new manager Gus would certainly have had an impact. More likely, however, it was Saints' annoying habit of losing on TV that led to their first defeat since October.

Saints 2 - Norwich 2

A return to form in their last home game saw two brilliant Saints goals secure a point against the Canaries. An Adam Lallana strike in the first half was added to by a David Connelly wonder goal in the second, but both of which were levelled after poor defending. Pardew was left frustrated his side could not get a third in a game they deserved to win, although satisfied by the quality of a pulsating game which he labelled "worthy of a higher level."

Hartlepool 1 - Saints 3

Perhaps the most important result of the lot came tonight as Saints made the long trip north. Hartlepool are making a good fist of things this season, but that did not stop a brace from goal machine Adam Lallana seeing off the north-easterners, Ricky Lambert getting the vital third.
The result leaves Saints a point from safety and poised to continue their long climb up the league. Cup wins aside, November looks unlikely to replicate the golden success of October, but if Saints can continue to get results and keep moving up play-offs remain a possibility. And that, believe it or not, would top an appearance in the Johnstone's Paint Final.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Saints march on... and top 50 Southampton players

Saints successfully navigated their tricky cup tie away at Bristol Rovers on Friday, avenging their embarrassing defeat in the same place eighteen months ago.

Bristol Rovers 2 - Saints 3

It took five second-half minutes for the impressive David Connelly, granted his first start for Saints after two goals in two appearances as sub, to add a further two to his tally and put Saints in a commanding position. Winger Antonio chipped in with another on 70 minutes, and it is just as well that he did as Bristol Rovers fought back. The win was never in doubt, however, as it was not until two minutes into stoppage time that the Pirates got their second. The win represents another step in the right direction for Pardew's men, who are building momentum with their regular wins both at home and away from St Marys.

On separate note, Steve Keenan of The Times has compiled his list of the 50 Greatest Southampton Players. It is well worth a read and there is a lot of room for debate - why is Jason Dodd not higher? - and I will be writing a blog post in response later in the week. The biggest point of contention is who occupies the top spot. I myself disagree with that particular ranking, but you will have to make up your own mind. Enjoy...

Monday, 2 November 2009

Lambert magic ensures Saints remain unbeaten

Saints failed to make it five wins on the trot away to Leyton Orient on Saturday, but in a way their performance against the Os was just as important as their four preceding games.

Leyton Orient 2 - Saints 2

When wins come in such volume together it can lead to a sense of inevitability, which can be crushing for opposition teams but also lead to complacency in ours. And Saints' slow start on Saturday could be put down to the latter, although it was pure bad luck that caused the Os to double their lead after half time from Neal Trotman's own goal.

But the most important thing is that Saints continued to attack right until the end, in spite of a number of well-created chances going begging. They had to wait until sixteen minutes from time for goal machine Ricky Lambert to eventually punish Orient and score. Promptly collecting the ball from the net he, like everyone else, knew Saints were in it to win it and got the second ten minutes later. Such was the manner of the fightback, Saints would undoubtedly have won had the game been extended - testament to their self-belief and ability.

People may point to this game as a missed opportunity to extend a winning run, but more important is the fact that Saints remain unbeaten. After some bad luck and complacency this turned into a good result for Saints - if they can continue to claw back games such as these while winning the best part of the others a top half finish and more is a very realistic outcome this season.

Which team will fill the third relegation spot?

Four games left. Will Saints survive?

Would you be in favour of a return for Rupert?