There was only one winner at St Andrews on Saturday, and it wasn’t Blues or Southampton. Andy Munro reports.
If it’s not bad enough TV dictating how football fans have to organise their lives, it adds insult to injury when it forces teams to play a match in conditions that are hardly conducive to good football, never mind the fans freezing themselves solid.
The crowd was circa 18,000, which was bolstered by a healthy away following and given the freezing conditions and live broadcasting, could have been worse. Blues opted for their usual keeper and back four, Stevie Carr excepted, and in midfield N’Daw came straight back into the side. This meant that Mutch was moved to the flank to presumably strengthen the midfield at the expense of a Nathan Redmond-inspired width. Up front Blues signalled their apparent attacking intentions by playing both the fit-again King and the enthusiastic Rooney.
Blues started the brighter although Chris Burke (who had one of his less distinguished games) failed to deliver any quality with his final ball so nothing tangible came from our early superiority. Gradually Saints started to impose themselves with some good possession play but they also failed to threaten. What was noticeable was the return of N’Daw, who took the transition from Senegal to Snow in his stride as he put in some awesome tackles and headers whilst spraying the ball round in impressive style. However, with Burke ineffective and Messrs King and Rooney seemingly lightweight and ineffective any goals looked unlikely.
But as often happens with Blues, they started off far more convincingly in a second half attacking the Tilton Road. N’Daw came agonisingly close, first with a soaring header that went just wide and then with a thunderous shot that was tipped away at full stretch by the Saints keeper. This was about the closest either side came to scoring. As the game drew to a close it started to peter out even more as a spectacle but in truth, a draw wasn’t disastrous. Mind you, it was a disappointment that Nathan Redmond wasn’t given a burst but maybe he’s being saved for the Pompey fixture together with a hopefully fit again Zigic.
Caldwell rightly got man of the match for a no nonsense performance against the much vaunted Ricky Lambert, who he made look distinctly ordinary whilst Billy looked less than Sharpe when he came on for the Saints.
The result keeps us in the mix, particularly for the play offs which if achieved will represent a real result given our off the field tribulations allied to Celtic treachery.