On the Cross verdict: Saints 1 Reading 1

Last updated : 29 April 2009 By Chris C

Poortvliet reshuffled his pack as Lancashire dropped out for the rested Perry and Matthew Paterson came in for the injured Drew Surman. Poortvliet claimed afterwards that Surman had picked up a short-term ankle injury, but the timing was suspicious with the transfer window so near. Saints other high profile transfer targets Lallana and Schneiderlin were also missing injured.

With Robertson unavailable after his car crash, the inexperienced Paterson led the line which he did with credit, albeit without seriously threatening the goal.

First half - solid, if unspectacular

Saints began the first half largely in control against a high-flying Reading side over-cautious after what Steve Coppell described as a 'hammering' up at the Madejski stadium.

The Royals defended deep with two clear lines of four, anxious to deny Saints' youngsters the space to carve them open on the counter attack. However, they clearly hadn't been doing their homework on our home form as yet again despite considerable possession and set piece opportunities the youngsters were largely toothless.

Toothless aside from a thunderous drive from McGoldrick onto the underside of the bar which stung him into life, finally shaking off the lethargy of late to remind the crowd and possibly himself of what he is capable of.

Reading looked lively on the counter attack, but their crosses and runs at the defence were well dealt with by a defence much improved by the return of the experienced Perry.

Second half - ecstasy, then agony

After a relatively flat first half, the tempo started to increase and the atmosphere started to build as a decent crowd of over twenty thousand responded to the obvious endeavour of the youngsters, with McGoldrick and Gobern to the fore.

The game started to get niggly with Stephen Hunt showing his short fuse with some handbags with McGoldrick and then an attempt to put the home-debutant McLaggon off his game, a tactic that backfired with a memorable run and assist from the 17-year-old.

There was an equally memorable roar from the crowd as finally, finally Saints scored at home and finally, finally McGoldrick showed his ability in front of goal with a neat finish. You could see just how much it meant to player and crowd alike with a pile up on the pitch replicated in several parts of the crowd.

Unfortunately, this stung a lacklustre Reading into action who were immediately more threatening. Saints also looked nervous with the weight of their home form and habit of conceding late goals combining.

Sure enough, yet another second ball from a set piece proved their downfall as Long responded quickest to brush the ball past a despairing Davis. It could have been worse had Doyle taken one of two good chances late on, with the crossbar and Davis' reflexes preventing the winner.

Duberry may well have handled in the box, but with our luck it was never to be.

On the Cross verdict

It was a case of what might have been yet again at St Mary's, as the youngsters' impressive efforts went unrewarded. A failure to convert our possession into enough chances and enough of our chances into goals, coupled with more late nervy defending proved our downfall.

It was quite something to see surely Premiership-bound Reading so fearful of such a young Saints side, a respect seldom shown by the more physical sides in the Championship that Saints have struggled to cope with.

At least Saints looked more akin to their early season promise rather than the world-weary performances of late, but as back then it all ultimately came to nothing as the solitary point put Saints into the bottom three.

On recent form this is where we deserve to be and unless we can find a more regular goal-scorer, the improving defence and midfield will not be enough to save the club from relegation, particularly with January's transfer window looming.

Poortvliet spoke afterwards of his desire to get in a striker on loan, but was unable to offer any reassurances as to the futures of his star players, Lallana, Schneiderlin and Surman. Saints will have to evaluate what offers come in, accept one or more of the best and hope that those who take their place can cope and that there are sufficient funds to get a Premiership striker on loan.

Getting Saganowski back would be a start and the form of Gobern and McLaggon offers plenty of hope, but no real expectation that anything but a relegation battle is on the cards.

At least the youngsters went into the bottom three with a bang rather than a wimper.