Holmes return the key

Last updated : 20 December 2008 By Chris C
Like Oakley and Svensson before him, Holmes' reputation has grown while unable to play for the side. Throughout his injury, Saints' have struggled to play the much touted but rarely seen Total Football, a system that requires two quality wingers to function effectively.

The huge turnover in the wing positions tells its own story as Poortvliet stuck to his guns despite the evidence before him and tried player after player on the flank. Now at least he does have one genuine winger available with the return ahead of schedule of Lee Holmes.

Holmes not only chipped in with a couple of goals, but added vital width and a steady stream of decent crosses into the box. OK, Saints still lack a genuine striker to get on the end of them, but it does increase our attacking options.

It is a shame that Schneiderlin's troublesome hamstring keeps him out, as Saints will miss his ability to strike accurate long diagonal balls for Holmes to run onto and open up space.

Of course there are concerns about whether he can hit his stride after three months without so much as a reserve game, but he has come through training strongly this week and is desperate to get back on the pitch.

The other question is who can fill the position on the right wing. Bradley Wright-Phillips has slowly established himself back in the starting line-up and has the pace, if not always the discipline, to play as a winger.

Another option is Adam Lallana who has proved less influential of late as the opposition have begun targeting him as our danger man and forcing him back into less effective areas.

With such an inexperienced attack, Poortvliet needs to find a place for Jason Euell after his role in the comeback goals at Burnley, particularly given his aerial strength and ability to get the front players organised.

That would mean one of Wright-Phillips or Lallana missing out, with McGoldrick seemingly undropable, both of whom would be good impact players coming off the bench. In a side short of goals, Wright-Phillips might just get the nod, unthinkable a few weeks ago, but he is at least scoring.

Despite another goal in the reserves, Gasmi still hasn't shown enough to be a contender to start with the concern that he is another wasted loan signing after the mixed form of Smith, Robertson and Pekhart before him. He deserves more chances to impress and hopefully will come good.

It's going to be a massive game against Forest, thankfully watched by a big crowd. It's a sign of our perilous position that this is a genuine six pointer only midway through the season. Win and it's a seven point gap, draw and its the status quo, lose and we really are in trouble with Reading to come and the Premiership vultures looming in the transfer window.

Saints have traditionally risen to the occasion when it really matters. Time for the youngsters to show that the future of our club is in good hands.