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

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