A capacity St Mary's crowd saw Saints complete their march to the arch last night, as Pardew's men recorded a comfortable second leg victory in their JP Trophy area final clash against MK Dons.
Saints 3 - 1 MK Dons
The final next month provides Saints with the chance to add their first silverware to the trophy cabinet since winning the FA Cup in 1976. Carlisle were confirmed as their opponents after an unlikely two leg victory (finally decided by penalties) over league-leaders Leeds, whose cup form appears to have gone downhill like their league form. Saints will be hoping the next round proves as straightforward as last night. Holding a one goal advantage from the first leg, Saints dominated the early stages and were rewarded with two goals in the first thirty minutes through Ricky Lambert and a fortunate Dons own goal. The visitor's goal came just before the break but turned out to be nothing more than consolation as Adam Lallana put a comeback out of the question with a third in the second half.
The significance of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy
Few fans at the Millenium Stadium nearly seven years ago would have predicted that our next appearance in a cup final would come in the Football League Trophy; still less that we would be happy to be there. But despite the grumblings of some fans who dismiss its importance - it is open only to teams in League One and below - the competition has provided a massive lift to Saints' season. The chance of a day out at the new Wembley is one few fans thought they would get and the chance for silverware should never be snubbed, whatever the competition - especially given a trophy cabinet (right) that has been attracting nothing more than cobwebs for over thirty years. Following relegation and a points deduction that, along with a terrible start, has all but erased Saints' play-off hopes, this cup run has allowed Saints to assert themselves as a winning presence again. Given the losing rut this club has found itself in for the last few years, the importance of that is massive.
Interesting, then, that chairman Nicola Cortese should have chosen to overshadow last night's tie by stating his disappointment at Saints' recent league form during a radio interview. Of course, promotion must be the priority at all times, but given the crippling points penalty and pre-season upheaval it was always a massive ask. He has a point in that Saints should be winning at places like Exeter and Brentford given the immense investment that has been made in players such as Jose Fonte and Lee Barnard. But Pardew himself has needed time to bed in at this level. A cup win and a top ten finish this season should be seen as acceptable and provide the platform for a concerted drive next year. It must be hoped Cortese does not choose to ratchet up the pressure any more.
Her Majesty is a Saints fan
Last night not only saw the finalists of the JPT settled, but also the question of whether Saints would have a side to face in the next round of the FA Cup. An extremely generous decision from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs granted Portsmouth a further week's stay of execution as they battle to avoid a winding up order. Someone, somewhere, is obviously very keen for at least one more south coast derby to take place. And given Pompey's toils and Saints' cup form of late, she must be a Saints fan.
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