Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Saints Fanzine – the jinx is over!

With Saints maintaining their fine run of form with another victory, this time in the cup against Shrewsbury yesterday, it is time to reveal that a particularly annoying monkey has been lifted from the magazine's back.

The first league games at which we sold issues one and two of the fanzine were against Plymouth and Rochdale - both ending in fairly disastrous defeats. Some said we were cursed, that we were responsible for the downfall of Alan Pardew, even that we should cease production to give Nigel Adkins a fair go at the helm.

Thankfully, issue 3 sales days have ended in wins over Oldham and the Shrews so the cloud seems to have lifted. Long may it continue, and Saints' march up the table with it!

Visit for more dets.


Sunday, 24 October 2010

Saints 2 - Oldham 1

Saints picked up their third home win on the trot on Saturday, outbattling Oldham in a tightly-fought game. It was pleasing to see Adkins' men fight back after going a goal behind, something they had yet to do this season. Oldham's early goal was the result of some criminal defending on the left side of Saints' defence, but Fonte made amends by heading home the equaliser from Adam Lallana's cross. Despite their at times cagey play, Saints came through thanks to a moment of brilliance from 17-year-old substitute Alex Chamberlain, who was superb when he came on. Adam Lallana was, as ever, superb throughout.

Would also like to point you in the direction of The Saints Fanzine, whose third issue went on sale yesterday. It seems to be going down well with supporters- if you are interested in copy please get in touch.


Sunday, 3 October 2010

Win 2 tickets to Saints v Tranmere

For those of you confused by the post below, this should make sense of it. Thanks to Official Football League partners Coral Dugout, we have two tickets to give away to this Saturday's match at home to Tranmere. Just answer the question below and send it, with your name and number, to me at by Wednesday to be in with a shout.

Former Saints manager Dave Merrington now works as a pundit on Radio Solent. But where was the big-hearted northerner born?

I won't be giving the game away if I say it's north of Watford. Anyway, entries must be received by midday on Wednesday. Read terms and conditions below or drop a comment if you have any questions. Cheers and good luck!

Competitions: Terms and Conditions

The blog is running its first ever competition this week, in conjunction with the folks at Coral Dugout. Will be posting the details in a moment, but first, for future reference, here are those all-important Ts and Cs...

· The editor's decision is final.
· Red and White Bill employees and their family members of Coral and Southampton FC are not eligible to enter.
· There are no cash alternatives. Prizes are exactly as stated in the competition - travel expenses, accommodation, food, hospitality and merchandise are not included.
· Entrants must be over 18.
· The winning entries are selected at random from all correct entries one week after publication date.
· Entries will be void if they are received after the closing date. We will not take any responsibility for late arrival of these entries.
· Each of the Football League and Coral reserve the right to verify the validity of entries made under this competition and further each reserves the right to disqualify any entry where either the Football League or Coral reasonably believe that the entry has been made unfairly or other than in accordance with these terms and conditions.
· If prizes cannot be posted, Red and White Bill will write to the winners informing them that they have won. Their names and addresses will be supplied to the booking company for contact to be made or to arrange delivery only. Details will not be passed on to any third party, outside of Coral’s agents.
· All competitions are accepted in good faith, if prizes cannot be supplied, as per the copy printed, it remains the responsibility of the booking agent to provide an alternative to the same value or above.
· All tickets are home tickets and therefore you must be a home or neutral supporter to attend the match. Away fans are not permitted in the home end of the Stadium and any individual acting in breach of this requirement may be ejected from the Stadium.
· Entry to the Southampton FC stadium is subject to normal conditions of ticket entry. Winners are subject to screening by the HOME CLUB (“Club…#157;) based on the Club’s conditions of entry and neither the Football League nor Coral shall be liable if the Entrant or any person accompanying the Entrant is refused entry or ejected by the Club, for failing to satisfy the Club’s condition or any other reason.
· If the Entrant or any person accompanying the Entrant is the subject of a current Banning Order under the Football Spectators Act 1989 (as amended) they will be refused entry to the Stadium and their winning entry and tickets will automatically be voided.
· The prize tickets that are issued to the winning Entrant may not be sold or transferred to any third parties.
· Neither the Football League nor Coral shall be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever which is suffered, including but not limited to indirect or consequential loss, or for death or personal injury suffered or sustained by any party as a result of winning and/or using the prize tickets, except for any liability which cannot be excluded by law.
· By entering into this competition, each Entrant acknowledges that he/she is solely responsible for ensuring that he/she and any companion is willing and able to attend the fixture for which his/her prize tickets have been awarded. Neither the Football League nor Coral will be held responsible for any failure on the part of an Entrant to attend the relevant fixture for any reason nor will they be liable at any stage to issue replacement or substitute tickets to any Entrant.
· Each of the Football League and Coral reserve the right to terminate, amend or extend this promotion at any time.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


Huge apologies for the lack of posts this season - I should probably explain myself. Launching The Saints Fanzine - which is proving there's life in the ol' dead tree press yet - was to blame at first, but I started at journalism school three weeks ago, which has robbed me of any spare time or social life full stop (some say I didn't have the latter in the first place.)

Anyway, my posting capability will be severely limited for the foreseeable future, for which I apologise. In better news, I have been talking to bookmakers Coral, who will be throwing some Saints tickets our way for competitions - I will post more here shortly. Also, we hope to bring out the third issue of The Saints Fanzine towards the end of October.

Would also just like to point people in the direction of this article about Saints, which appeared on excellent football funnies website The DA after the Colchester game. I met the ingenious creator of the site Craig Woods before the game to give him in the inside track on all things Saints. Incidentally, one of my colleagues at journalism school, Richard Cutcher also writes for the site. Not only is he a top bloke, he was the Derby County mascot who hit the headlines last year for getting in a fight with two Reading players! If you fancy a laugh, please read this.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Answers to the first Saints Fanzine quiz

1) Which northerner managed Saints to FA Cup success in 1976?
Lawrie McMenemy

2) Who was captain on that day?
Peter Rodrigues

3) And who scored the only goal?
Bobby Stokes

4) Name the striker Saints signed from Southend in January (he’s better than Frank Lampard according to some people, too).
Lee Barnard

5) Which notorious former Saints chairman was famed for his ruddy face and (alleged) taste for duck-hunting?
Rupert Lowe

6) Which player, labelled the worst in Premier League history by some, was signed by Graeme Souness in 1997 on the recommendation of someone pretending to be George Weah?
Ali Dia

7) Which famous Saints fan sang ‘Walking Away’ and ‘7 Days.’
Craig David

8) Which big-hearted former Saints manager now earns his crust as a pundit on Radio Solent?
Dave Merrington

9) Name the beanpole former Saints striker who now has to stoop to get under doorways at White Hart Lane.
Peter Crouch

10) Which hardman left back earnt a testimonial at Saints in 1997 after years of service but just one goal?
Francis Benali

11) Who was Player of the Season last year?
Rickie Lambert

12) And in 2008-09?
Kelvin Davies

13) What is the name of Matthew Le Tissier’s autobiography?
Taking Le Tiss

14) Who managed Saints to the FA Cup Final in 2003?
Gordon Strachan

15) And who captained the side on that day in May?
Chris Marsden

16) By what scoreline did Saints beat Carlisle in the JPT Final in March this year?

17) And can you name the goalscorers?
Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Papa Waigo, Antonio

18) To which Italian side did Senegalese international Papa Waigo return after his loan spell at Saints ended this year?

19) This year sees the side don a strip inspired by the kit worn by the club’s first ever side. In what year was the club formed?

20) Which club did Rupert Lowe label ‘a bunch of North London Yobbos’?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Saints update

Apologies for the lack of recent posts, especially given the start of the season and the sad news that rocked the club a few days ago.

Markus Liebherr, the 62-year-old owner of Saints, died last week.

His unexpected passing has provoked a huge response among fans, who have flocked to St Marys to pay their respects to the man who saved the club from extinction in July last year. The club has launched a book of condolence and Saturday's game against MK Dons was postponed.

The reason for the lack of activity is that we are currently busy compiling the next issue of The Saints Fanzine, which of course will be dedicated to the memory of Markus. We welcome all tributes and content ideas for publication.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Pre-season reports

A youthful Saints XI ended the club's pre-season campaign with a victory away to local rivals Eastleigh last night, after their older colleagues had lost at home to Championship side Reading on Saturday.

Saints 2 - Reading 4
Eastleigh 0 - Saints 1

Pards was most pleased with the performance of his strikers Lee Barnard and David Connolly on Saturday after his side had matched Reading for seventy minutes until a number of substitutions disrupted the pattern of the game and allowed Reading to take the advantage. Concern remains, however, over the players who couldn't play on the day, with Rickie Lambert, Morgan Schneiderlin and Jason Puncheon all touch and go for the season proper's kick-off versus Plymouth on Saturday. Adam Lallana will definitely be unavailable, with the manager admitting his star midfielder had not done nearly enough preparation in an injury-riddled pre-season.

A well-taken Sam Hoskins strike was enough to see off Eastleigh last night in a tightly-contested game at the Silverlake. Martin Hunter's young team did well under pressure against the physical approach of an older Eastleigh side and it was a good early advert for the work being done at the club's new football development centre.

Friday, 30 July 2010

The Saints Fanzine has landed...

And it is here with a week to spare before the season starts. We are pleased to announce that the first batch of The Saints Fanzine arrived from the printers today and it is looking cracking. We will be selling it at this week's friendlies against Reading and Eastleigh - find us tomorrow by the footbridge on Northam Rd and also on Britannia Rd. The first issue costs just £1 and features:

- An exclusive Glenn Cockerill interview
- World Cup chat with journo Jeremy Wilson
- A catch up with Saints ledge Marian Pahars

Besides a host of new Saints-oriented content. All for a quid!

In the meantime, please follow us on Twitter - and we look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Graham Poll speaks to R&W Bill

Thanks to our friends at The Coral Dugout, Red and White Bill has had the chance to quiz former top-flight and infamous World Cup referee Graham Poll on the performance of the men in the middle in South Africa.

Coming the day after Howard Webb became the first English referee since 1974 to run the rule over the final of the competition, his words are timely. He also gave the most useful and rounded answers to questions out of the three (former England players Martin Peters and Terry Butcher answered previously). Here are his thoughts on the issue of consistency versus common sense for referees, in which he gives some interesting insights.

You can view other answers from Poll and get more information on the Coral Dugout via Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A special announcement...

The world of journalism may currently be in the grip of the move from print to online publishing, but here at Red and White Bill we love to buck the trend... that is why we are happy to announce that we will be launching a new club fanzine in time for the new season.

We hope to have it printed in time for the start of August and will be selling it at the pre-season friendlies against Reading and Eastleigh, and then before matches once the season-proper has started. The office is currently buzzing with content ideas and we are truly excited about producing the first new fanzine relating to the mighty Saints in years; one that will be produced by fans, for fans.

More details will be produced in due course, but in the meantime we would like YOUR HELP. If you have any ideas or would like information about advert space, please get in touch with either myself or James Hallett via the following means:

Will Wainewright
07828 178154

James Hallett
07811 848653

We are really excited about this project - please keep checking back for updates!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Marian Pahars interview

I meant to upload this a few weeks ago, but Glastonbury and the last week of university (yes, I was too busy having a good time) got in the way. Anyway, I managed to track Marian down recently and interviewed him over the phone. The former Saints star is currently coaching in his native Latvia and had some nice things to say to Saints fans. Enjoy the piece, The Daily Echo's sports weekly The Pink ran it on their front page.

Saints’ Swiss-powered revival in League One has attracted a lot of attention this season and one man looking on from afar has been the former fans’ favourite Marian Pahars, who has followed the side’s prospects keenly since leaving four years ago.

“I follow Saints over the internet,” says the gifted Latvian international, who acquired cult status on the south coast after joining for £800,000 in 1999. “I don’t have a chance to see them as they only show Premier League matches in Latvia, but I make sure I keep up with how the team are doing.”

The ‘Latvian Michael Owen’ was recommended to Saints boss Dave Jones by Latvia national team manager Gary Johnson and went on to score 45 goals in 156 appearances for Saints.
He became an instant hit with fans after playing a crucial role in the ‘Great Escape’ survival bid of the 1998/99 campaign, scoring three vital goals in the run-in, including both in the crucial final-day 2-0 win over Everton at the Dell.

Now retired and coaching at Skonto Riga, one of his first clubs in his native Latvia, Pahars took the time to speak to The Pink and reflect on his time at Saints. “All the Saints years were great,” he said. “They are just one big happy memory. Every day I spent there was fantastic.”
Renowned for his phenomenal pace and dribbling ability, Pahars enjoyed a prolific partnership with James Beattie, scoring thirty between them in the 2001/02 season. He scored a number of landmark goals, including the winner in Saints’ first ever league victory at St Marys against Charlton in 2001.

His sweetly-struck curler against Pompey in 2003 is also fondly remembered by fans, as is his goal at Old Trafford against Manchester United in 1999, which was preceded by an outrageous nutmeg on the bewildered Jaap Stam.

His tendency to score important and memorable goals could make it difficult to choose a favourite, but he plumps instantly for a strike against Derby at the Dell. “I remember it well – I took it left-footed, and it flew into the top corner from 25 yards. I enjoyed it because I didn’t score so many from outside the area!”

The latter stages of the Latvian’s spell at Saints were marked by a series of persistent injury problems, and Pahars has not been back to visit St Marys since he left. “It is a shame but I have not been back to Southampton yet. I hope to return one day as I enjoyed a very special few years at Saints.”

Saints fans may also be pleased to hear his thoughts on the World Cup this summer. “You can never count out teams like Brazil and Germany, but England definitely have a chance.”

“The fans in Southampton will stay in my heart forever,” he said. “Since I arrived at the club they were fantastic, and stayed with me throughout my injury problems. I would just like to say a big thank you to them for all their support over the years.”

Marian Pahars Facts

- Despite his diminutive reputation, the ‘Latvian Michael Owen’ stood at 5 ft 9.
- He was signed by Saints after scoring a ‘classic’ hat trick (a goal with each foot and a header) in a reserve team match against Oxford United on in 1999.
- Pahars was the first Latvian to play in the Premier League.
- He scored 16 goals in 75 appearances for his national team and came on as a substitute in every game of their 2002 World Cup campaign.
- Pahars wore the no.17 shirt, as he did for his country.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Martin Peters speaks to Red and White Bill

Even before England's calamitous defeat to Germany on Sunday, R&W Bill was able to question '66 World Cup winner Martin Peters on underperforming European teams, thanks to our friends at Coral Dugout. The fact that teams from South America have outshined their European counterparts is reflected in the fact they make up half of the quarter finalists (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and now Paraguay).

Here is what Martin Peters had to say on the issue. He still had faith in England at this point, but we will have to now wait four years at the very least for a repeat of '66.

You can ask your own questions at the Coral Dugout via Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Terry Butcher England question

"It's not about how you start, it's about how you finish"

So replied Terry Butcher, World Cup semi-finalist at Italia '90, to a question posed to him by Red and White Bill after Saturday night's draw against America. But following tonight's horror show against Algeria, England will have to start with a bang against Slovenia on Wednesday if they aren't to leave South Africa horribly early.

The question session was organised by our friends at Coral Dugout, and other answers from Butcher can be viewed here. But the England players seemed shadows of their club selves, and failed to come out and prove the critics wrong, as my question and Butcher's answer had hoped and expected.

Trust Fabio? Unless England can turn it around on Wednesday, Capello will be remembered as a Postman Pat, rather than a managerial great.

Monday, 14 June 2010

The Ultimate England Saints XI

The World Cup is here at last, and what better way to while away the time between matches than by engaging in pointless speculation as to which former Saints players would make the current England XI (more than previously thought given the result on Saturday).

To that end, I have compiled what I consider to be the ultimate England Saints XI. The only condition for selection was that the players won their England caps while playing for Saints – and 27 players qualified under that criterion (hat-tip to Nick Illingsworth’s Saints Preserved for help with research). But there was only room for eleven, and while some players were instant choices, it was hard to fit others into a workable system – particularly up front, where the wealth of exciting attacking players Saints have been blessed with over the years gives the side a hugely offensive flavour.

Having said that, the centre-half pairing of Mark Wright and Dave Watson in front of Peter Shilton means the side has a solid core, with Steve Williams holding in midfield. Heaven knows he will have his work cut out with Le Tiss, Keegan and Paine alongside him.

The Ultimate England Saints XI

GK: Peter Shilton (49 caps won while at Saints)

The most-capped England player only had Tim Flowers for competition in goal. ‘Shilts’ is currently flogging a truly dreadful World Cup single – welcome to your future, David James (Robert Green will struggle to sell anything after Saturday).

RB: CB Fry (1 cap)

Something of a sporting and political legend around the turn of the century, Fry won his only England cap in 1901, although he also represented the country at cricket. Later rose to notoriety for different reasons through his friendship with Adolf Hitler.

CB: Mark Wright (16 caps)

Rock-solid central defender won his caps between 1984 and ‘87, and is one of eight players to have played for Saints and captained England.

CB: Dave Watson (18 caps)

Completing a strong-looking centre-half pairing, Watson also captained England.

LB: Wayne Bridge (12 caps)

An automatic choice at left back, ‘Bridgey’ appeared in the 2002 World Cup match against Argentina while at Saints, before his career was prematurely ended by the actions of his philanderer captain.

RM: Terry Paine (19 caps)

Saints legend Paine played an important role in England’s successful 1966 campaign, though the narrow ‘wingless wonders’ formation used in the final meant Alan Ball and Martin Peters were preferred against Germany. I envisage Paine hugging the touchline, providing service for the front two.

CM: Steve Williams (6 caps)

Lining up alongside three flair players, the onus will be on Williams, a Saints legend during the eighties, to sit and hold in midfield while they go wondering.

LM: Kevin Keegan (9 caps)

Keegan was the hardest player to fit into this side, but his was a necessary inclusion after joining Saints at such a high-level moment in his career. Mostly due to the greater demands on places from other players I have stuck him on the left, albeit in a roaming role ala Steven Gerrard. He would be given free rein to cut in and create, opening up the overlap for Bridgey.

AM: Matt Le Tissier (8 caps)

I am one England manager who will not overlook the brilliance of Le Tiss. As Alan Ball did at Saints in 1995-96, I would build my England side around ‘Le God,’ sticking him in the hole and ordering others to pass it to him.

ST: Mick Channon (45 caps)

Making up the trilogy of all-time Saints heroes in this England side (alongside Paine and Le Tiss), the first user of the iconic ‘Windmill’ celebration would occupy an orthodox target-man role, feeding off Paine’s service.

ST: Alan Shearer (3 caps)

As an England legend, Shearer has to go in (although his skills as a pundit leave a lot to be desired). The ‘best finisher I have ever seen’ according to my flatmate.

As for the manager, who else but Sir Alf Ramsey, who was capped for England while playing for Saints in 1948? And for those of you disheartened by England’s performance on Saturday, just remember this: England drew the first game of their successful campaign under Ramsey in 1966. It's not over just yet...

Friday, 11 June 2010

The 125 year anniversary kit has landed

"A kit from yesterday for the team of tomorrow"

So runs the tagline accompanying the launch of the new Saints shirt, which, after weeks of speculation, was revealed today on the Saints website. As predicted by some, the design of the shirt marks a significant break with the red and white stripes that have adorned Saints players for years - the white design with red diagonal stripe harks back to the kit sported by the St Marys Mens Team 125 years ago.

The R&W Bill verdict? Fan. While a year without our beloved red and white stripes may be too much for some fans to take, the design is a cracker. The lack of sponsor is a nice touch, and adds to the simple appeal of the kit. The big question, of course, is whether this kit can win a league title.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Shoutout to Coral Dugout

With just a week until the world cup, it is time for Red and White Bill's attention to turn to South Africa. I hope to compile an all-time England Saints XI in time for the tournament, but will also be shouting out to a few other websites that are helping fans through their coup de monde.

Online commercial initiatives surrounding the tournament are also two-a-penny, of course, but one service that has caught R&W Bill's eye has been ‘The Dugout,’ a service launched for the 2010 World Cup by bookmakers Coral. The speculators amongst you may be interested to know about the site, which will offer daily tips and offers to members from Soccer Saturday presenter Jeff Stelling and notorious referee Graham Poll.

The latter has been marketed as the man who ‘holds all the cards,’ and, though his last world cup will be remembered for the fact he held up one too many, the pair should ensure the site is the go-to place for those willing to risk a bob or two. They will be joined by an ‘insider,’ who will be offering inside information and advice to punters. Who knows, Rio might be a late contender for this job after writing off his tournament this morning.

We will hopefully be teaming up with the guys at Coral Dugout to bring you interviews with leading football figures throughout the tournament - a bit more exciting than the rumour mill that will inevitably be surrounding St Marys this summer. Who knows, it may even be our year: I’ve stuck a fiver on at 7-1, so let’s hope so…

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

More news...

Saints revealed their released and retained list last week, bringing the Saints careers of a few characters to an end.

The headlines are that Michail Antonio and Papa Waigo will be returning to their respective parent clubs, Reading and Fiorentina, after season-long loans, while there has been a clearout of fringe squad players such as Simon Gillett and Lloyd James.

Veteran defenders Chris Perry and Wayne Thomas will be not be competing in any sprint finals soon, but their commitment and steadfast loyalty to the Saints cause over the last few years means they will be remembered. And it seems the same can be said for Graeme Murty, who, despite just spending one injury-ravaged season here, appeared to be an important figure within the squad.

I expect he's looking forward to spending more time on the late kick-off sofa with Leroy Rosenior.

In other news, the club kicked off its 125 anniversary year by unveiling a special commemorative club crest. The design is hardly revolutionary, but gets the point across.

Pardew stays, Cortese goes off on one

My apologies again for neglecting this page recently, I am back on it again now after spending three hours writing about 1960s social history in an exam this morning.

Where to start but the blistering statement Cortese released last week? He keeps his cards close to his chest and doesn't speak often, but when he does, he doesn't half go for it.

In an end-of-season diatribe of almost polemic proportions, Cortese dismissed media reports that he was set to sack manager Alan Pardew after the Saints boss failed to guide the club to a top-six finish despite player investment in January.

Unsurprisingly, the Southern Daily Echo is the chief target for his ire, despite reports over Pardew's future being published in national newspapers; judging by this report in The Mail, you would have been forgiven for thinking Pardew had boxed up his desk stationary already.

Even Radio Solent - which, unlike the Echo, has a commercial agreement with the club - reported that Liebherr's absence from St Marys ten days ago was down to unhappiness at this season's progress. But Cortese has his sights firmly set on the Echo:

"As a local paper, I would have hoped that it would provide the local newspaper with news, rather than gossip."

He does not stop there, launching broadsides at Saints legends Matthew Le Tissier, Lawrie McMenemy and Kevin Keegan for daring to speak out in favour of Pards.

Of course, the bottom line is that Pardew is staying - that is something we should all be thankful for as managerial stability is what this club craves. And even if Cortese's public pressure on his manager appeared harsh in March, it certainly had an effect as the side went on an immense end of season run that almost ended in a play-off place.

But Cortese needs to realise that the media coverage surrounding English football will not go away - and, as he is learning, can grow out of control if left to swell unabated. Communication is an essential part of running any football club and that is the one area the Swiss needs to build on next season.

Cortese says he "will not respond to every piece of idle speculation." Nor should he. But although keeping completely tight-lipped may satisfy him in his feud with the Echo, by allowing these rumours to escalate, it is only the fans who suffer.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Pardew - I just hope we get the chance to build on this

Saints ended the season in style at St. Marys this afternoon, coming from behind to secure a comfortable win over already-condemned Southend. Post-match comments made by manager Alan Pardew, however, raised the prospect of an uncertain few weeks ahead for the club.

Saints 3 - 1 Southend

Despite the blistering run of form that followed their JPT success - which means Saints would have made the play-offs and been just three points from an automatic promotion place were it not for the points deduction - Chairman Nicola Cortese has maintained an ominous silence on his manager's future in recent weeks. Despite a season widely regarded as successful, Cortese is understood to be unhappy at the balance of results since over three million pounds was spent on the squad in January - and if that is not the case, he has not said anything to alter that impression.

Pardew's comments after the win effectively threw down the gauntlet to Cortese to come out and back him in public. He seems keen to stay at Saints despite reports of interest from a higher level, but his patience will surely be tested if he continues to have to work in an environment he may not feel is supportive. Today's win was certainly useful in demonstrating that only the points penalty stood between Saints and greater success this season.

The win was also important as it secured a couple of impressive goal landmarks for Saints players. After falling behind in the second half, a Rickie Lambert brace - taking his League tally to a colossal thirty for the season - won the game before a third was added by Adam Lallana minutes from time - his twentieth from midfield this season.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Saints update

Apologies for the recent break in posting, I have not had as much time to write as the end to Saints' play-off hopes coincided with the start of exams. Here is a brief update of the past two weeks.
  • Saints 3 - 2 Carlisle: Saints again shared five goals with their JPT Final opponents, this time coming out on top by a single goal thanks to a Rickie Lambert strike and a Michail Antonio brace.
  • Huddersfield's thrashing of condemned Stockport on the same day, however, mathematically ended Saints' hopes of catching them.
  • Following those two goals, that topped off a strong debut season from the Reading loanee, Pardew expressed his intent to extend Antonio's spell at Saints. Reading's decision to extend his contract at the Madjeski by a year does not appear to bode well, but there is a chance he will continue to gain experience at Saints next year.
  • Gillingham 2 - 1 Saints: Pardew fielded a new-look side, including Eastleigh signing Aaron Martin at the back and Lee Barnard and David Connolly up front, away to Gillingham for the penultimate game of the season.
  • The side struggled without Rickie Lambert, who was brought on at half time to add some much needed firepower as Saints slumped to a poor defeat in front of over 2,000 fans.
  • Pardew slammed his players following the match, claiming they had not realised how difficult it would be against a Gills side who needed the win to boost their survival hopes.
  • Signing another striker of Lambert's ilk appears likely now in the summer after Pardew expressed his concern that his side's attack looked blunt without his leading marksman. Just what Barnard and Connolly did not want to hear.
  • Finally, the summer of discontent has officially begun. A national newspaper has today reported that Pardew is struggling to hang onto his job after failing to make the play-offs despite the 3m spent on players in January. Time for Cortese to come out and back his man in public and put an end to these stories now.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Saints 0 - 0 Oldham

A stout defensive display, combined with some dubious refereeing, allowed Oldham to leave St. Marys with a point last night, all but ending Saints' late charge to the play-offs.

Saints 0 - 0 Oldham

Lee Barnard's stoppage time winner at Yeovil on Saturday had convinced many previously cynical Saints supporters that reaching the play-offs was possible, but the pressure of sustaining the winning run caught up with their side last night. After four straight wins, Pardew's men knew they would need four more to keep the pressure on Huddersfield, but few fans would have identified Oldham's trip to the Mecca as the stumbling block. The visitors, however - deploying an understandably negative game plan given their lowly position and Saints' recent form - stifled their opponents from the start. Puncheon built on his impressive recent form with a lively display on the wing but the all-important first break never came.

Paul Wotton came into midfield to replace the suspended Morgan Schneiderlin, whose passing ability was hugely missed. Lloyd James replaced Wotton at the interval in order to restore some of the flow to Saints but was himself replaced by Papa Waigo with fifteen minutes to go as Pardew went all out for the goal, also throwing on David Connolly. The Welshman James had a bit of a shocker, while Pardew reacted angrily when questioned about his substitutions on Radio Solent. A gold-plated penalty claim was denied on a night when little went Saints' way, despite twelve shots on target and the lion's share of possession. The result leaves Saints seven points from the play-offs with three to play.


On a brighter note for Saints, the full extent of Pompey's collapse was revealed today in the Report to Creditors produced by the administrators down at Fratton Park.

In it, the sorry carcass of Pompey's financial accounts are laid bare. It makes interesting reading, particularly the list of creditors (pg 33 onwards), which sets out what Pompey owe to who. Saints are even owed £35,000 by the neighbours down the road - how long before Liebherr sends his attack dog Nicola Cortese along the M27 to sort that one out?

Although much of the damage had already been done by last summer (in terms of a huge outlay on players accompanied by some staggeringly generous contracts), it is simply astonishing that Peter Storrie and others did not do more to safeguard the club given what was happening at St. Marys.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Yeovil Town 0 - 1 Saints

Even if Saints fail to reach the play-offs this season, as seems likely after Huddersfield Town's win on Friday night, no one can fault their determination to make it happen, which was again demonstrated as the side managed to grind out a fourth straight win away to Yeovil yesterday.

Yeovil Town 0 - 1 Saints

After a red-blooded encounter at Huish Park, in which Morgan Schneiderlin was red-carded for the second time this season and assistant manager Dean Wilkins was sent to the stands, Pardew praised his side's spirit for 'seeing us home.' The two thousand travelling Saints fans, perhaps in possession of unrealistic expectations after Tuesday night's trouncing of Bristol Rovers, had to wait until three minutes into stoppage time for Lee Barnard to head home from Papa Waigo's cross.The decisive moment had been preceded by a scrappy game, which had seen the hosts grow in confidence after a strong Saints start went unrewarded. Both sides had clear one-on-one chances in an open first half, but, as Saints grew frustrated, chances for Yeovil multiplied in the second. Saints' frustration was encapsulated by Schneiderlin's dismissal twenty-one minutes from time for a petulant bout of afters. Knowing only a win was enough to keep the fading play-off dream alive, Pardew, who had already replaced Antonio with Lee Barnard at half time, threw caution to the wind with ten minutes remaining, sending on Papa Waigo and David Connolly to leave four strikers on the field.

A game which finishes with Ricky Lambert in centre midfield and Papa Waigo at right back is always going to be remembered as an unusual one, and Saints were left brutally exposed as they risked all for the winner. But Yeovil, despite some fine counter-attacking play, were unable to capitalise on a couple of four-on-three opportunities in the final moments, and were left to rue their inability to finish as Lee Barnard pounced in front of the jubilant Saints faithful.
Though not the most deserved of Saints wins, it keeps them in the hunt with four games to go. Winning their game in hand at home to Oldham on Tuesday night would close the gap to five with three to play. Like the Premier League title race this year, this one looks set to go to the wire.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Bristol Rovers 1 - 5 Saints

Saints' late play-off charge gathered pace last night as Alan Pardew's men recorded a huge win against Bristol Rovers that sees them leapfrog 'the Gas' to eighth in the table.

Bristol Rovers 1 - 5 Saints

An impressive travelling contingent of nearly 2,000 Saints fans were rewarded with an immense performance from their side, who recovered despite falling behind in the first half. Jose Fonte was unlucky to fell Jo Kuffour as he attempted to shepherd the ball out of play which gave Rovers an unlikely lead after surviving a barrage of early Saints efforts. It fell to former Gas marksman Rickie Lambert - applauded warmly at the start and end of the match by the home fans - to get Saints level before striking them into the lead before the interval with a deflected free kick.

Though Saints had the balance of the chances in the first half, Bristol hit the woodwork and were close to getting a second. It was a different story in the second half, however, as Saints launched an onslaught on the opposition goalmouth. The three goalscorers richly deserved their share of the haul, with Jason Puncheon and Adam Lallana tirelessly creating openings as the home side tired. A special mention must go to Morgan Schneiderlin, who opened his Saints account in style with a beautifully crafted 25-yard volley, leading to a round of 'we were here when Morgan scored' from the away end.

Huddersfield's late comeback against Walsall was the only dampener on a massive night for Saints, who will be looking for a repeat performance at Yeovil on Saturday.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Saints 1 - 0 Charlton

Saints moved to win eight points of the final play-off spot with their win over fourth-placed Charlton yesterday afternoon, in a fixture that may be repeated at the end of the season if they manage to close that gap.

Saints 1 - Charlton 0

A solitary goal from Michail Antonio was enough for the hosts to see off their London guests on a sunny afternoon at St Marys. It was far from a classic performance, with Kelvin Davies required to get in the way of three smart efforts from Nick Bailey, but Saints had the balance of the chances and consistently threatened in the first half. The goal was well worked, Jason Puncheon cutting in incisively from the right and feeding for Antonio to smash home from the edge of the area. It was a rare moment of fluency in a game that stuttered at times, neither side allowing the other to get truly into its stride, and nor was it helped by the pernickety decisions of referee Hegley.

Sainst now travel to Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night and Yeovil on Saturday for games they simply must win to keep the play-off dream alive. But at the moment they are making the happy habit of winning games without hitting top form - if they keep that up, anything is possible.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Saints 2 - 1 Leyton Orient

Though Saints' season has been characterised by ups and downs, certain patterns and performance traits have held constant, as their last three matches have shown. While Sunday's Wembley win demonstrated their ability to perform under pressurised cup conditions, Thursday's draw at Brighton again highlighted their vulnerabilty away from home. And though Saints again conceded an early goal in today's game against the newly managerless Leyton Orient, Alan Pardew's side built on their impressive home form this season by coming from behind and getting the result at St Marys.

Saints 2 - 1 Leyton Orient

Just eight points now separate Saints from sixth place Huddersfield Town and Colchester, over whom they have a game in hand. They will need to improve significantly on this performance, however, if they are to win all their remaining games, which will surely be required if they are to have any chance of snatching sixth spot. A goal in either half from Adam Lallana was required to see off the O's on their first match back at St Marys following their cup final appearance. The first, a beautifully crafted goal curved in from just outside the area, drew Saints level minutes before half time after poor defending had let the visitors take an early lead.

The Northam End was in exuberant mood, and needed to be in the face of a sluggish Saints performance, in which only the individual brilliance of Adam Lallana shined through. His second half header was his eighteenth goal of the season, an amazing statistic that could see Championship sides testing the Southampton-born player's often-professed loyalty in the summer. Pardew paid testament to his star player, but also his side's achievement in grinding out an important win despite a poor display.

Next match: Saints v Charlton (Saturday 10 April)

Friday, 2 April 2010

Brighton 2 - 2 Saints

After the glory and glamour of their Wembley appearance on Sunday, Saints came back down to earth with a bump in the uninspiring surroundings of Brighton's Withdean Stadium last night, gaining a late draw that does little to boost their play-off ambitions.

Brighton 2 - 2 Saints

Optimistic fans still harbouring play-off hopes will surely have had this down as a win for Saints in the BBC's score predictor, meaning the side will have to win virtually all of their remaining eight games if they are to bridge the eleven point gap to the top six. It is by no means impossible, but a win last night would have got the ball rolling nicely for a side for whom midweek away trips to grounds with poor pitches have proved costly again and again this season.

And so it was last night as Saints went behind early last night to Elliott Bennett's opener. Captain Dean Hammond drew the sides level just before half time but Saints left themselves exposed at the back as they went in search of a winner in the second half, with Ashley Barnes' restoring the Seagulls' lead. Lee Barnard rescued an important late point for Pardew's men but Brighton hung on to prevent them taking all three.

Pardew's starting eleven (4-5-1, r-l: Davies, Otsemabor, Fonte, Jaidi, Harding-Antonio, Hammond, Wotton, Lallana, Puncheon-Lambert) raised some eyebrows among the travelling contingent, but the attacking nature of the midfield all but compensates for the failure to play two out and out strikers. Having said that, it would be good to go into games against like Brighton with two up front to send an attacking message; it is easy to get stuck in a defensive mindset when you swamp the midfield. But Brighton are an in-form team and going places under Gus Poyet and if you combine that with this being the first game following Wembley, this was probably going to be the toughest game of the run-in. Taking six points from our next two home games is now crucial.

Next game: Saints v Leyton Orient (Monday 5 April)

Monday, 29 March 2010

Saints at Wembley: Player Ratings

Kelvin Davies - 8

Reliable all afternoon and as dependable as ever when called into action. Could do nothing with the goal. A special win for him given his decision to stay in the summer - the West Ham bench would not have been a nice place to be this weekend.

Dan Harding - 8

Special credit must go to Harding for playing out of position at right back. Dealt comfortably with whatever threats Carlisle posed down that side.

Jose Fonte - 7

A couple of dodgy headers early on were only noticeable as they were a change from his normal assured performances. As normal, a cut above the rest.

Rahdi Jaidi - 8

The definition of solid. Seemed really up for it and is clearly loving life at Saints at the moment.

Joseph Mills - 7

Coped more than competently with his day on the big stage - he must have been feeling the pressure at being asked to 'do a Chris Baird' but put in a mature display. Even tried to get a goal for himself as he darted inside late on.

Michail Antonio - 8

A quality return from a player Saints have missed in recent weeks. His goal topped off a superb performance in which he posed a threat whenever the ball was sent up to him on the right. He could be relied upon to either hold it up or make inroads on that side.

Paul Wotton - 7

A big ask to come into the side and replace Morgan Schneiderlin on such a big day but coped. Has little of the Frenchman's finesse or distribution but got stuck in and provided gutsy cover for the backline.

Dean Hammond - 8

A captain's performance. The pressure was on without his normal midfield partner but linked up play well from the centre. Sent the Wembley turf flying (as well as some Carlisle players) with some interesting late challenges.

Adam Lallana - 8

Great to see him get a goal on the big stage. He fully deserved it, putting in another all-round display with a maturity that belies his years. His post-match comments about staying at Saints and taking them to the Premier League were very welcome.

Rickie Lambert - 8

Proved as dangerous as ever and clearly loved his first day out at Wembley with Saints. Took his penalty superbly in front of a frenetic Carlisle contingent.

Papa Waigo - 7

A performance characterised by his two central traits - scoring tap-ins and being caught offside. May need a new celebration for when he next steps out at Wembley.

Subs: Gillett (76), Connolly (85), Perry (90+2)

Carlisle 1 - 4 Saints JPT Final Match Report

2010 Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final

Carlisle 1 (Madine 84)

Saints 4 (Lambert 15, Lallana 44, Papa Waigo 50, Antonio 60)

Attendance: 73, 476

Two things were made clear yesterday as the highest domestic crowd of the weekend turned up to see Saints demolish Carlisle at Wembley. First, that there is more to English football than the Premier League - the strength of fan support, together with quality of players such as Rickie Lambert and Ian Harte plying their trade in the third tier, combined to pay testament to life in the lower leagues. And second, that Alan Pardew's Saints may be on the verge of something very special as they seek to make reality owner Markus Liebherr and Chairman Nicola Cortese's dream of top flight football within five years.

"This is a start - a good start," admitted Pardew after a game in which his side had run out comfortable victors over a below-par Carlisle side. After a shaky start, in which Dan Harding was lucky not give away a penalty for tussling in the area after six minutes, it was the actions of Carlisle defender Peter Murphy which gifted Saints the perfect start. His bizaare decision to handle Antonio's cross from the right may have succeeded in preventing the ball falling to Rickie Lambert, but he was lucky to remain on the pitch for a blatant foul. It only delayed the inevitable, however, as Rickie converted the resulting penalty to score his first goal in three appearances at Wembley. Saints' nerves were immediately relaxed, and although Carlisle continued to create some pressure, the ever-dangerous Adam Lallana had a total of three clear chances in the first half alone, the third of which he converted to all but tie up the game before half time.

A two goal half time cushion was beyond the hopes of most Saints fans, whose side are notorious for doing things the hard way. Pre-match pressure on the favourites was increased by a pile of injury problems, which saw experienced midfielder Paul Wotton drafted into midfield to replace Morgan Schneiderlin, who was unfortunate to be ruled out by a hamstring strain he picked up on Tuesday. The absence of Wayne Thomas was also a blow, and meant young full back Joseph Mills was granted a start on the left for only his seventh start of the season, with Dan Harding switching to the right. The side dealt admirably with the changes, however, as more poor defending from the northerners gifted Papa Waigo his first Wembley tap-in. Antonio, whose return from injury was a massive boost to the side, turned the result into a rout with a fine swivel shot on the hour - a great way to celebrate the midfielder's 20th birthday.

The inevitability of the result combined with a lack of match fitness from players brought in and playing out of position meant a pedestrian end to the game, and it would be harsh to begrudge Carlisle fans their side's consolation six minutes from time. Neither side had played their best football on the day but the open nature of the game combined with the five goals ensured it was quite a spectacle. As were the celebrations that followed Saints' win, which saw Pardew and his men climb the 61 Wembley steps to lift the surprisingly large trophy in front of their digital camera-wielding employer Liebherr. There were hugs all round between management and players, and a particularly pertinent one between Pardew and Cortese, who can hopefully reach more of an understanding on the back of this win. Do not be surprised, however, if the whip continues to be cracked with zeal - Cortese is clearly impatient for success. This win, however, demonstrates that Pardew has the appetite for it too, and he clearly wants more; as he admitted afterwards, the play-offs remain the aim this season.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Saints triumph in Johnstone's Paint Trophy Final

Saints won their first piece of silverware for 34 years on their first ever trip to the new Wembley this afternoon, as at least 44,000 fans travelled to the capital to witness the team dispatch an uninspired Carlisle side with ease.

Carlisle 1 - 4 Saints

For full reaction to the final, including tactical analysis, player ratings and photos from Wembley, don't miss R&W Bill this week.

Friday, 26 March 2010

New football trivia forum

Thought some of you may be interested in a new football trivia service created by the brains behind Football Filter. Aimed to be 'a place to ask and answer football questions,' it is a sort of cross between Digg, Wikipedia and your basic forum. It is still in its early stages, and Ben and the team are looking for more people to get involved.

After creating an ID you can pose questions and answer other people's, building 'reputation' in the process. Get involved, here is the link.

Wembley preview

With the JPT Final just two days away, it's time to have a look at the likely line-up for Sunday.

News from the treatment room

The biggest boost to the side came with the news that Adam Lallana will be fit to play. He missed Tuesday's game against Hartlepool and is under doctor's orders to take it easy for the rest of the season but will play. Morgan Schneiderlin will also make it after coming off midway through Tuesday's game with a tight hamstring. Longer terms absentees Graeme Murty and Lee Holmes will not be back in time, while there is little chance of Antonio, Lloyd James or Jon Otsemobor making it. The biggest question marks hang over David Connolly and Wayne Thomas. The striker came on for twenty minutes on Tuesday but may not be risked from the start. Equally important will be whether Wayne Thomas can come on at right back after being injured on Friday. There was talk of him making a surprise recovery for Sunday but this has to be unlikely with a recent calf injury. All in all this leave Pardew without a natural right back and with a massive selection headache

R&W Bill's Wembley line-up:

(right to left)


Perry Jaidi Fonte Harding

Waigo Hammond Schneiderlin Lallana

Connolly Lambert

Perry at right back seems the obvious choice, although it may also be a job Paul Wotton could do. It seems quite a big risk to start with Waigo and Connolly as Papa can drift out of games while Connolly will certainly not last the whole ninety, but it just shows the lack of attacking options Pardew is faced with due to Antonio's injury and Barnard being cup-tied. It all heaps the (already not inconsiderable) pressure on Rickie Lambert ahead of Sunday. Placing Wotton in midfield or even recalling Simon Gillett to the side could be alternatives, but that would require significant adjustments as neither are natural widemen.

Having said all that, after a long season of 50+ games already, Pardew should be thankful to have the spine of the side intact for Sunday. Saints have not lost many games this season when Davies, Fonte, Jaidi, Hammond, Schneiderlin, Lallana and Lambert have all played. It is a formula Pardew will be hoping holds true for Sunday.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Football Filter Blog

I have written another piece for the excellent Football Filter website. Starting with Thierry Henry's imminent clash against his former employers Arsenal, it looks at five cases of footballers returning as enemies to the clubs where they made their name.

You can read the entry here.

Saints 3 - 2 Hartlepool

Some Saints players appeared to have already started their march to the arch judging by their performances last night, but the side still dug in to record another important win.

Saints 3 - 2 Hartlepool

After a disappointing pair of results last week, back-to-back wins against MK Dons and Hartlepool could not have come at a better time with Wembley on the horizon. Saints will now enter Sunday's final clash with form on their side, although Pardew faces mounting injury concerns that were added to by Morgan Schneiderlin's removal from play with a tight hamstring last night.

Saints shared five goals with the 'monkey-hangers' in a relatively open game, going behind within ten minutes to a soft opener. Pardew took responsibility for the goal, blaming a tactical mix-up, but the result was never really in doubt as Saints asserted their dominance on the game. Goals from Lee Barnard and Rickie Lambert ensured Saints went in with a lead at the break. That was added to early in the second half as Jason Puncheon broke down the left and delivered a strike that was saved off the line- it fell to Papa Waigo, in characteristic fashion, to take advantage of the rebound. A thunderbolt strike from Austin ensured a nervy finish but Saints were well worth their win, one which takes them to just eleven points from the play-offs.

Monday, 22 March 2010

MK Dons 0 - 3 Saints

Rickie Lambert took his goal tally for the season to thirty with a hattrick that handed Saints a comfortable victory over MK Dons on Saturday.

MK Dons 0 - 3 Saints

It was the side's fourth victory over the Dons this year after recording wins in both legs of the teams' JPT clash after beating them at home. Lambert's third strike was a spectacular 35 yard lob and a sweet way to complete his first hattrick for the club. Two defeats in the last three games had left Saints out of the play-off hunt, but with the gap now down to 14 points, the club's management obviously still think it is on. A win at home to Hartlepool tomorrow night would help that cause no end, and should be played in front of a packed St Marys after the Chairman released special details of a ticket offer.

Here are the highlights.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Saints 0 - 1 Swindon

Saints lost at home in the league for the first time this year against Swindon on Tuesday night, in a result which leaves their hopes for a top six finish in tatters.

Saints 0 - 1 Swindon

Pardew's men failed to capitalise upon their first half dominance and were left to regret it in the second half when Charlie Austin sent the hosts behind. Despite hitting the bar late on, Saints could not find a leveller and, although it is still mathematically possible, they would need an incredible run of wins and a lot of luck to reach the play-offs now.

Here are the highlights.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Saints 1 - 0 Leeds (plus reaction to Cortese interview)

Saints demonstrated their ability to beat the best in League One and put last week's woes at Tranmere behind them yesterday by recording one of their biggest wins of the season against Leeds.

Saints 1 - 0 Leeds

Dan Harding's first half strike was all that ultimately divided the two sides in a game that saw Saints gain revenge for their defeat by the same margin against Leeds in December. Alan Pardew made some interesting comments in his post-match interview about Saints' progress over recent weeks. An impressive string of performances have seen them prove themselves at home against opponents as diverse as promotion-chasing Leeds and Huddersfield and the lowerly Walsall. The only question mark over the team, he claimed, hung over their ability to win scrappy games away from home on boggy pitches. The play-offs remain a massive 16 points away and even correcting this flaw will probably not result in a top six place. But he is right that his team is starting to prove its dominance in nearly every area at this level; with that shortcoming corrected for next season, prospects for promotion bode very well.

Nicola Cortese Interview

Prior to kick-off, Radio Solent aired an extensive interview with Saints Chairman Nicola Cortese. In it, the elusive Swiss figure - handed the reigns of power at SFC by club owner Markus Liebherr, the Swiss Industrialist who took over the club in the summer - answered fans' questions on a range of issues. Here is the link, but in the meantime, here are the headlines:

Promotion this season

The Chairman dismissed claims that he and Pardew had fallen out over his public statement of dissatisfaction with results since January. He reiterated, however, his belief that results should have been better and that promotion was a realisable aim at the start of the season. Perhaps disingenuously, he compared Saints' prospects with Norwich and Charlton, who, he said, were 20 or 30 points ahead. Although he factored the ten point penalty into his claim, it should be remembered that Saints was a club on its knees in the close season and Pardew had little time to sort out his squad. The signings in January could not have been expected to deliver instant success. Cortese is obviously impatient to leave League One.

The future of St Marys

Cortese lingered for a while on questions surrounding the stadium, stating his desire to sort out match day issues such as parking and make more use of the ground on non-match days. He obviously sees the surrounding area as a hindrance and made the following bombshell statement: 'I would not exclude the possibility that we are going to build a stadium somewhere more convenient.' Nothing more that a pipe dream surely - few fans would want to leave St Marys anyway. But it again indicates his ambition to build the club in all directions, both commercially and on the playing field. Expect big changes to the area around the ground in the future.

JPT Ticket situation

Cortese stated his dissatisfaction at ticketing levels and the prospect of seeing over 20,000 empty seats at the final in a fortnight. He revealed he had even offered to provide and pay for stewarding to support the extra fans. However, he conceded it was probably too late to expect any changes now as the FA would not want to 'lose credibility.'

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Tranmere 2 - 1 Saints

After the party, the hangover. Saints' blistering run of form was brought to an abrupt end away at Tranmere yesterday, in a result that will do no favours to their late dash to the play-offs.

Tranmere 2 - Saints 1

Scoring ten goals in two games at St. Marys sent shockwaves around League One last week, but Pardew's men again failed to establish the same level of performance away from home. A late Tranmere penalty - dubiously awarded by a rookie referee who appeared out of his depth - decided matters yesterday, after Saints had wasted a string of chances to go ahead in the second half. But to say Saints dominated would be unfair, as Tranmere were worth at least a point from a game in which they had their share of the chances.

The result leaves Saints 15 points from the top six with Pardew still in search of a formula to serve Saints on these tricky away days.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Who is going up from League One?

The above question provides the BBC's Paul Fletcher with much to ponder in this excellent article. Focussing on Saints' prospects, he describes Tuesday's performance against Huddersfield as among the best he has seen from a third tier team.

Written from a neutral perspective, it sums up our predicament pretty neatly and is well worth a read.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Saints 5 - 0 Huddersfield

Saints moved to within fourteen points of the play-offs in emphatic style on Tuesday night, knocking five goals past an in-form Huddersfield side.

Saints 5 - 0 Huddersfield

As Pardew highlighted after the game, this win was in a different league to Saturday's thrashing of Walsall, coming as it did against a side unbeaten since December. The visitors also occupy the treasured final play-off place, but a goal each for Lambert, Barnard, Puncheon, Hammond and Papa Waigo secured a huge win that signalled Saints' intent to be in possession of that spot come the end of the season.

Here are the highlights of an awesome win.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Saints 5 - 1 Walsall

Saints moved on from the disappointment of midweek in emphatic style by hammering Walsall at St Mary's this afternoon.

Saints 5 - 1 Walsall

After such a miserable, expectation-grounding match against Wycombe, this was the result everyone wanted. Pardew labelled it a 'complete performance' after the game, which Saints won despite falling behind within just four minutes. A first goal for winger Jason Puncheon got the comeback under way, with fellow January signing Lee Barnard recording his second brace in three games to ensure Saints were cruising by half time. Not for the first time this season, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert got themselves on the scoresheet to put Walsall out of sight and secure Saints' biggest win under Pardew.

Speaking to Radio Solent's Adam Blackmore after the game, Pardew seemed reluctant to read too much into the win, and dismissed Dave Merrington's claim that his side are the best in the division when they perform as they did today. His attitude intimated annoyance that good performances are received in such rapturous terms, while games such as Tuesday's are seen as crushingly bad although they represent little more than an off-day. Either way, Pardew is operating in a high-pressure environment at St Mary's and will have been pleased, inwardly at least, with a performance that lifted it a little.

Attention now turns to Tuesday's important clash with play-off chasing Huddersfield, who currently occupy the slot Saints have their sights trained on.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Wycombe 0 - 0 Saints

Saints play-off hopes took another hit on Tuesday night as they were once again found out on a terrible pitch away at Wycombe.

Wycombe 0 - 0 Saints

These were two points Saints could ill-afford to drop with Huddersfield continuing their winning form in sixth place. The gap now stands at nineteen points and looks more like a chasm with every game. The pressure is now on for Saturday, when Saints host Walsall for another 'must-win' game.

Here are the 'highlights' from a scrappy game either side could have won.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Norwich 0 - 2 Saints

Saints responded in emphatic style to chairman Nicola Cortese's recent criticism of their league form, recording a deserved win away to league leaders Norwich.

Norwich 0 - 2 Saints

Despite an unbeaten start to 2010 prior to Saturday's loss to Pompey, there had been murmurs of discontent in some quarters at Saints' failure to improve their league form and push on up the league. The side's inability to hold onto half time leads away to Millwall, Brentford and Exeter saw the gap between the club and the play-off positions stretch to a probably insurmountable eighteen points - an apparently unacceptable outcome for Cortese following a big January spend. Mitigating factors aside - the complete lack of a pre-season, fatiguing progress in the cups - it seemed as if the chairman's patience was starting to wear thin, despite this being Pardew's first season.

But Saints managed to get their league season well and truly on track again yesterday, as goals in each half from January signing Lee Barnard ensured Norwich would fail to match a club record eight consecutive home wins. It was a comprehensive and professional victory, made all the sweeter by the fact that the goals were Barnard's first for the club following a slow start. The play-offs remain seventeen points away and Saints will need luck and an unbeaten run of form to make them. However, this result was more important in that it carried Saints' cup form into the league and demonstrated they have the power in the squad to beat the best. A strong finish to the season - even if it does not result in a play-off place - is important for maintaining the high confidence level surrounding the club, but wins in their next two, highly winnable, games against Wycombe and Walsall, may see the play-off gap narrow.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Derby Day: The Fallout

'The fans genuinely hate each other. It's a strange hatred and I haven't known another like it.'

Harry Redknapp

He should know. As one of only two men to have managed both sides, Redknapp has spent enough time on the south coast to know that despite the seventeen miles of M27 separating the two port cities, the clubs share a mutual enmity felt as keenly as any in football. Naval rivalry, fluctuating fortunes and the sheer infrequency of their meeting explain the rivalry, which was given another airing in today's FA Cup fifth round tie at St Mary's.

Portsmouth emerged as the victors on this occasion, eventually running out 4-1 winners in a game in which League One Saints dominated large parts. But their superior work rate and commitment in the challenge in the end proved no equal to the more clinical finishing of their Premier League opponents.

Match report

FA Cup 5th round:

Saints 1 (Lambert 70) - Portsmouth 4 (Owusu-Abeyie 66, Dindane 75, Belhadj 82, O'Hara 85)

Davis, Harding, Perry (Holmes 83), Jaidi, Thomas, Lallana, Hammond, Schneiderlin, Antonio, Lambert, Papa Waigo (Barnard 72)

The match began brightly in front of a feverish St Mary's crowd. Before the game Pardew had spoken a lot about the history of the tie and that appeared to have rubbed off on his players as Saints quickly took control of proceedings. The febrile atmosphere, combined with the relentless closing down of the home side, appeared to surprise their opponents and Saints nearly got their reward midway through the first half, as Rickie Lambert looped the ball onto the head of the lively Papa Waigo. The Fiorentina loan signing, however, was unable to nod past David James, who made the first of a string of fine saves that kept Pompey in the game during the first hour.

After such a dominant first half, there was always a risk that a failure to capitalise upon it would come back to haunt Saints. A couple of misses from the ever-dynamic Adam Lallana early in the second summed up Saints' day and they started to be regularly breached by a lightning quick counter attack as the clock wound down. Such attacks were to prove their downfall, and led to the impressive substitute Quincy Owusu-Abeyie sweetly curling home the opener on 66 minutes. The lead lasted just four minutes, however, as Rickie Lambert, who was fortunately not taking this particular set piece, got on the end of a Dan Harding delivery to level the match. But as Saints continued to attack, they became more and more vulnerable to the counter and it fell to Dindane to restore the visitor's lead with fifteen minutes remaining. Saints proved unable to respond this time, with further goals from Belhadj and the excellent O'Hara piling on the pain for the home side. Given the two tiers that divide the two sides, such a result was to be expected; but those at the game and watching on TV will know it was a lot closer than the scoreline indicates.

Big Game: The Significance of the Derby

Despite the first goalless hour, this match will have left ITV bosses with few regrets for selecting it for live screening. But this particular derby will be remembered as much for the circumstances surrounding the game as for events on the field. Four years after the last derby, when a Saints side at the start of their swift slide were dismantled 4-1 at Fratton Park by a Pompey side on the cusp of FA Cup success, this match came at a moment of brilliant poetic irony - only the scoreline remains unchanged from that day. Saints, under new ownership and management, appear to be a club on the way up following a fresh start in League One. What is more, it appears certain that Pompey will be relegated from the Premier League this season and conceivable that they will go out of business altogether following a series of murky takeovers and suspect financial dealings.

Despite the loss today, that is something few Saints fans want. Given the drama on the field and off-field attention surrounding the match, it was perhaps fitting that the defining moment of the day came when the two met. A Saints fan, adorned in the comic Arab dress of a Fake Sheikh, ran onto the pitch towards the Pompey fans and waved a bunch of grubby five pound notes in their direction. Who knows when (and if) the sides will next meet, but it will surely come around sooner than this one did. In spite of the negative activities this fixture always seems to promote (fans faced up on Britannia Road after the game - the most-read article on the BBC website detailed the clashes), it is always a cracker and focuses attention on football in the south like no other. But while all Pompey fans will be dreaming of survival tonight, Saints fans will be having nightmares over a result that has extended bragging rights to Pompey fans for the foreseeable future.

Which team will fill the third relegation spot?

Four games left. Will Saints survive?

Would you be in favour of a return for Rupert?