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)
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