For all the talk of play-offs this year, the stark reality is that Saints have been stranded in the drop zone for the entire season. But that millstone was mercifully lifted from the club's neck on Tuesday night as victory over Wycombe dragged Saints into the relative heaven of 20th place. Now, with over half the season still to go, Saints can really start to look upwards in their pursuit of a play-off place.
Saints 1 - Wycombe 0
It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but that will not have come as a disappointment to Pardew, who seems to relish it most when Saints win ugly. That, however, would be a harsh assessment of a game Saints dominated from start to finish under the floodlights at St. Marys. It was a case of getting the job done for Pardew's men, who missed a host of chances against their relegation-threatened opposition. Ricky Lambert surprised no one by getting the crucial goal before the break, his worth to Saints being proven on nights like these when others fail to convert their chances. In the end it was not the performance but the result that mattered as Saints left their opponents behind in the drop zone.
Beside the boost received by escaping the drop zone, an analysis of Saints last ten games and where that would leave them in the League offers more hope for the remainder of the season. A league table based on the last ten games would leave Saints in fourth place (20 points), firmly entrenched in the play-off places. If they can maintain that form over the next few months finishing up there in May is more than possible. Saturday's trip to Walsall should provide an interesting acid test of the likelihood of that happening, with the Saddlers also collecting 20 points from their last ten games.
Cup half full
Away from the league, Saints continued their impressive cup form on Saturday, navigating a potentially tricky trip to Northampton.
Northampton 2 - Saints 3
The scoreline flattered the hosts in this FA Cup second round tie, as Papa Waigo, Lallana and Hammond goals put the tie beyond doubt within an hour. Sunday's draw handed Saints a home tie against either Rotherham or Luton, making a potentially lucrative and high profile fourth round match against Premiership opposition a distinct possibility.
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