On the Cross verdict - Leicester 0 Saints 1

Last updated : 29 January 2006 By Chris C

George Burley used the break from the league to give debuts to Darren Potter and Jim Brennan, who acquitted themselves well but clearly need time to settle and show their quality. Potter was involved in the only goal of the game, nodding forward for Kenwyne Jones to strike a dream of a half volley into the right hand corner from 20 yards.

The less said about the preceeding 90 minutes the better.

The defence kept another clean sheet with Polish boy mountain Bialkowski retaining his place and making a high quality save when called upon to deny Hammond when clean through. Higginbotham was moved into central defence and combined well with Claus, with Baird having one of his best games for Saints at right back.

With yet more changes at midfield and several absentees, Saints found it difficult to get our passing game going as both sides conceded possession easily and resorted to long punts downfield. With Quashie set for West Brom, Belmadi injured, Surman cup tied and Prutton going off early injured, Simon Gillett made his first ever appearance for Saints off the bench and showed a high work rate, but struggled to get on top of more physically strong opponents.

Up front Marian Pahars showed glimpses of his quality and with more games would have taken one of three good chances, heading narrowly wide and missing after rounding the goalkeeper at the death. Dexter Blackstock was again muscled out of it and needs much better service to allow his poaching instincts to shine.

On the Cross verdict

Kenwyne Jones’ bolt from the blue makes the third time in 2006 that Saints have won the game with a late goal, a positive sign after the late collapses of the past 12 months.

In truth, after an anonymous performance against Crystal Palace, many Saints fans were questioning his arrival as substitute, but he showed his worth with a first strike since August. For a player who promised so much early in the season, we can only hope his wonderful goal will help him go on a run.

After a frankly dire game with both sides lacking in confidence and cohesion, we should just be grateful that we have avoided a replay and are in the draw for the 5th round on Monday. With so many changes in midfield, a misfiring strike force and three debutants for Saints, it was never going to be pretty with our recent form.

Now it is onwards and upwards to Plymouth on Tuesday, with both sides on 35 points. With more new players set to arrive next week, it remains a period of transition for Saints. The key is to keep our run of clean sheets going and to find the right combination of grit, quality and organisation to get back to the side that created so many chances earlier in the season.

Man of the match: One of his best performances in a Saints shirt for the born again Chris Baird, who is taking his chance after waiting for so long.

Cameo of the day: Where did that come from, Kenwyne? More of the same please Mr Jones.

Lemon of the day: With the industrious Brett and his misfiring boots moved on, perhaps it is time to retire this part of the match report in his honour? Sorry, Brett!