On the Cross verdict - Saints 0 Ipswich 2

Last updated : 23 January 2006 By Chris C

After the painful departure of Theo Walcott, Saints line-up was largely bereft of our scholars, with Cranie injured, Mills not even on the bench and Dyer rested, with only Dexter Blackstock leading the line.

Saints also looked unbalanced with the lack of width that Redknapp was so often criticised for, playing with four central defenders and four central midfielders. There was a lack of width and understanding with the man on the ball having few options among largely static team-mates.

Perhaps the worst crime was playing a clearly unhappy Quashie out of position at left midfield. Football is about playing the right players in the right positions and Saints’ driving force in midfield was constantly drifting inside to try and get our play going.

With Delap and Oakley failing to stamp their authority on the game, Saints looked short of ideas and inspiration. How we could have done with a certain 16 year old to lift the players and the crowd. Even 18 year old Nathan Dyer might have done the trick.

With the lively Belmadi going off injured in the second half, Saints brought on another central midfielder in David Prutton to right midfield, as Saints put in one of the most insipid performances the poor crowd have had to endure.

Despite Ipswich fielding a lone striker, the Saints back four struggled to cope with him and in truth Lee could have had a hat-trick and probably should have had bar a ‘Niemi’ wondersave by Smith from a point blank header.

One ray of light was the return from injury of Marian Pahars to play a full 90 minutes. While clearly not match fit and still tentative in the challenge, he looked bright on the ball and was at the heart of Saints better moments.

Dexter Blackstock also worked hard, having to deal with more lofted punts forward in his general direction when both he and Pahars deserved far better service.

Kenton, Powell (Hajto, 65), Lundekvam, Higginbotham
Belmadi (Prutton, 57), Oakley, Delap (Jones, 63), Quashie
Blackstock, Pahars
Subs: Bialkowski, Ormerod

On the Cross verdict

Where to start with a frankly embarrassing performance, reminscient of THAT tame surrender to our friends from down the road? At least we can take some solace that they had an equally wretched day in the 5-0 humiliation by Birmingham in the relegation 6 pointer. At this level of performance, even if Pompey do go down, we may not be playing them, as the ‘R’ word reared its ugly head for the first time this season – relegation.

The free flowing side of earlier in the season has all but disappeared with the confidence visibly draining out of the players. Painful as it is to admit we actually played much better under Redknapp earlier in the season, creating chance after chance and looking a striker short of a top 3 side.

The side desperately needs new signings and fast to lift the team and we are not talking about more mediocre mystery players. We need quality, proven players and the Chairman needs to pay for it. The manager is in place, time to back him.

The match itself was a sideshow for protests against the Chairman. After a poor first half with few chances for either side, a ‘Lowe Out!!’ banner was unveiled in the Northam Stand to the delight of those nearby. It led to widespread calls for the Chairman’s head. As the confidence drained out of the Saints players in the second half, the crowd had seen enough.

Rupert Lowe often refers to a small group of troublemakers that oppose his Chairmanship. He can say that no more as every side of the stadium was on their feet calling for his head. The departure of Theo Walcott, coupled by an abject performance on the pitch, was the straw the broke the camels back in a display of unified protest.

There were calls for a pitch invasion, leading to the stewards forming a barrier around the pitch for much of the second half. A solitary figure made it through at the end of the match, only to be manhandled by six stewards, until Danny Higginbotham came over to calm things down and see the supporter escorted from the pitch and no doubt banned from the stadium.

While there is no doubt that the protests affected the players in the second half and that they would have been better confined to the intervals as with the Branfoot days, supporters had clearly had enough. Those that stayed at the end stayed to protest and it is a big two weeks for the club with the transfer window closing fast.

It is difficult to see where we go from here. The symbol of that dissatisfaction is Rupert Lowe, rightly or wrongly, and it is increasingly hard to see how he can restore his reputation with the supporters and the media.

Things simply have to change. Football can be a fickle business. Five million spent and three wins in a row and things will feel very different. But right now, that seems as far away as the Premiership.

Man of the match: Great to see an all too rare appearance from Marian Pahars who made it through the full 90 minutes and showed touches of his old magic.

Lemon of the day: Were you listening Rupert Lowe? And do you care? If he continues in his job, he simply must build bridges with the fans through dialogue and investment in the team.

Thorn in the side: Man mountain Lee led the line expertly and scored with two well taken finishes. Would have had a hat-trick but for a moment of magic from Paul Smith.

Cameo of the day: Hats off to Danny Higginbotham for calming things down when the supporter came onto the pitch at the end of the game, nipping an ugly struggle in the bud.