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.
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