Friday, 29 January 2010

Biggest seating changes in history of St Marys' planned

Saints are planning wholesale changes to the seating plan at St Marys, it has been revealed today.

In a high-level club meeting at St Marys recently, attended by Chairman Nicola Cortese and Ticketing boss David Luker, plans were discussed which included moving away fans to the opposite end of the stadium and giving the most vocal supporters, who have traditionally occupied half of the Northam, the entire end.

The club will be using the official website to gauge reaction from fans to the proposed changes in the coming days. They are unlikely to be recieved in uniformly positive terms, with many believing the change would just lead to Northam supporters relocating to be near to away fans again. The club believes, however, that St Mary's is unusual in situating its most vocal fans next to the away contingent. The stadium has come in for criticism over the years for its concentration of atmosphere at one end, which can lead to a poor atmosphere in other areas of the crowd.

The news was posted on the Saints Forum by an attendee at the meeting.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Brentford 1 - Saints 1

A Leon Legge equaliser six minutes from time was enough to prevent Saints claiming all three points at Griffin Park last night, costing Saints a valuable opportunity to move up the league table.

Brentford 1 - Saints 1

After the goal-scoring heroics of Wayne Thomas on Saturday, it was Lloyd James' turn to take the limelight yesterday. His finely hit strike after six minutes gave Saints an early lead, which they should have doubled in the second half through new signing Lee Barnard's gilt-edged chance. In the last half an hour, however, Brentford had a string of chances and were well worth their equaliser. Only the penalty-saving theatrics of Kelvin Davies, whose season continues to go from strength to strength, stood between Saints and defeat in the end.

Saints have now been thwarted by late goals in their last two games on the road, but in neither case would victory have been fully deserved. Pardew is nonetheless becoming increasingly frustrated at the side's failure to carry their cup form into the league and the pressure is now on to secure all three points when they host struggling Stockport on Saturday.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Saints v Pompey - here we go again

With progress being made on both the League and cup fronts under Pardew this season, the first year of the new era was shaping up to be a special one anyway. That was before Saints were drawn to host Pompey in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Matches don't come much bigger than this. It will be nearly four years to the day since the sides last met, when a weary and relegation-destined Saints travelled to Fratton Park for a 4-1 humiliation that helped seal their fate. In the four years since Pompey have clung on to their top flight status and won the FA cup, while Saints have succumbed to another relegation and come close to going out of existence. But despite the gulf that now exists between the teams, Saints will be the club that goes into February's behemoth clash in rosier health.

Portsmouth lie bottom of the Premier League, crippled by debts that have led to their TV money being requisitioned by football bosses to pay off fees. Mystery surrounds their owner, who fans rarely see or hear from, and the world of football has been transfixed by the notion that a top flight club could go out of business this year. The favourite is Portsmouth. Without Harry Redknapp, who for years had the midas touch down the road, relegation seems almost certain. The tie could not have come at a juicier time, with Saints coming out of a period of crisis and Portsmouth going into one.

A full house at St Marys is not in doubt. However, a element of realism is required. Despite the gulf in confidence, there will be two divisions-worth of difference between the teams and being beaten on our own patch remains a real possibility. Whatever happens though, the atmosphere will be irresistable and with only Chelsea of the big four remaining in the draw, Saints should have their eyes on further cup progress. The tie is due to be played on the weekend of the 13/14 February - get your ticket now.

Saints savour Wayne's World

Personally, I won't be completely convinced until I see a replay but, unless the media have collectively conspired to sell us a tall one, a Wayne Thomas wonder goal -you read that correctly - set Saints on their way to victory over Roy Keane's Ipswich in the FA Cup today.

Saints 2 - Ipswich 1

In post-match interviews, Alan Pardew expressed his incredulity at the sweetly-struck finish from his chunky defender after half an hour. The goal came in a first half which the visitors had arguably had the better of, but Saints, boosted by Thomas' effort, went in a goal up after the break. Substitute Antonio doubled the advantage soon after coming on ten minutes from time, with consolation coming in stoppage time for the Tractor Boys.

The win continues Saints' excellent form in cups this year and is a considerable scalp for Pardew's men. It also sets up the tantalising prospect of a meeting with Pompey in the last 16. The League table makes less encouraging reading tonight, with Saints slipping further back in the race for the play-offs. Importantly, however, Saints are winning matches with three games gone of an extremely congested run of fixtures. If they can carry that into the league, the top six should become a more realistic prospect.

Next game: Brentford (A) Tues K/off 7.45

Friday, 22 January 2010

Top six and Wembley still within sights as Saints bolster squad

Apologies for the lack of blogging in January - it has been hard to combine being a full-time Saints fan with writing a 10,000 word dissertation on late eighteenth century radicalism. Saints, too, have been battling on many fronts, still fighting in three competitions and a horrendous fixture pile-up on the horizon. The weather hasn't helped either, with the match at home to Huddersfield having to be rearranged due to a frozen pitch. Maybe it was wrong to expect a win at Millwall (Leeds lost there too), but many fans saw last weekend's draw at the New Den as a sign that the play-offs may be out of Saints' reach this year.

Millwall 1 - Saints 1

The result leaves Saints twelve points off the top six pace, a big gap to bridge with fixtures in the FA and JPT Cups to fit in as well. But the nature of the game worried some, with Millwall largely outbattling Saints. The fact that Millwall equalised with seconds to spare was seized on by Pardew that we should have won the game. And we probably should have done. But our goal came only minutes earlier, through a deflected Rickie Lambert free kick. Red and White Bill thinks the doomsayers, however, are premature. If we combine points away at tricky places like the New Den with home wins over the next few weeks, we will continue to climb up the table. The presence of three new defenders in our back line (see below) completely changed the side, meaning a point, in the circumstances, is a very respectable result.

MK Dons 0 - Saints 1 (JPT area final, 1st leg)

Better news, however, came in Wednesday's away JPT tie against Paul Ince's Dons. A professional display from Pardew's men was rounded off by Antonio's well struck finish in the first half, meaning they take an important one goal advantage back to St Marys next month. A Wembley final is now well within their sights, and if they can approach the second leg in the same way, Pardew's excellent cup record should ensure they don't miss out. March 28th - if it's not in your diary already, make sure it is now.

Transfer round-up

Saints have been the most active side in League One (maybe the Championship too) this window, making three signings with a fourth on the way today. Daniel Seabourne (undisclosed fee, three and a half years, Exeter), Jon Otsemobor (free, six months, Norwich) and Jose Fonte (up to 1.5m, three and a half years, Crystal Palace) all made their debuts in the game away to Millwall. Pardew has spoken before of the need to support Jaidi and Perry, especially as Wayne Thomas may be following Neal Trotman out of the club. The only other cover, academy product Olly Lancashire, is unproven. The three signings are a real signal of intent by the club, particularly Fonte, who Pardew has grouped with Lambert as being players who could play at the very top level.

The fourth signing, to be announced today, sees Lee Barnard join from Southend and Matt Paterson move in the opposite direction. The deal looks to have set Saints back around £175,000, for a man who has scored 17 goals in all competitions this season. That sums up Saints' movements so far - and they could not have come at a better time given the fixture congestion of coming weeks.

Next game: Saints v Ipswich (FA Cup 4th round) - Saturday 23rd January

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Saints' cup still half full as 2010 kicks off with a win

A blistering Ricky Lambert free kick was enough to dispatch lowly Luton Town on FA Cup 3rd round day at St. Mary's yesterday.

Saints 1 - Luton Town 0

Nearly 19,000 turned out on an icy day at St Marys (Fratton Park could attract just 11,000 for their home tie) as Luton made Saints battle for their place in the fourth round. After playing five matches already in the competition, the Conference outfit knew they had nothing to lose against higher tier opposition and came out attacking with two up front from the start, not loading the midfield as some had predicted. But despite a gutsy start from the non-leaguers, the difference in class showed in the first half as Saints created a host of chances, eventually making the breakthrough through Ricky Lambert's postage stamp set piece accuracy.

It was a different story in the second half, however, as Luton's spurned a couple of glorious opportunities, chances that even won the dubious acclaim of making it onto Andy Townsend and Robbie Earle's slot on 'miss of the weekend' during ITV1's highlights show. Saints clung on, however, to set up an immensely winnable tie at home to Roy Keane's struggling Championship outfit Ipswich in the next round.

In other news, Neal Trotman has returned to Preston after the northern side refused an extension to his loan. Olly Lancashire has been recalled as cover but Pardew has hinted that reinforcements may be needed if Saints are to continue to compete on so many fronts over the next few months.

Also, how good was it to see United beaten by Leeds today in the cup?! Fairytale stuff. You wonder, however, whether it will do more harm than good in terms of Leeds' prospects in the League this season. The televised triumph has put the spotlight on the club and its talents just as the transfer window gets underway. Could it have jeapardised their chances of automatic promotion at just the wrong time?

Which team will fill the third relegation spot?

Four games left. Will Saints survive?

Would you be in favour of a return for Rupert?