On the Cross verdict - Saints 2 Brighton 1

Last updated : 02 January 2006 By Chris C

It was a case of last man (or boy) standing as yet more injuries forced several changes in a youthful looking line-up. In addition to the previous injury list Saints lost Delap, McCann and Kenwyne Jones to injuries sustained in the Cardiff match.

Fortunately for Saints three also were fit to return with Quashie, Kenton and Nathan Dyer back for Saints. Saints look a different team with Quashie in the side and despite not being at his best, he put in an effective performance as the fulcrum of the team, alongside the neat and tidy but quiet Yoann Folly.

Saints were grateful for the success of our academy as no less than seven former youth team players made it onto the pitch. Best and Blackstock resumed their prolific U18 partnership up front, although they did not combine well and the ineffective Best was withdrawn at the break, leaving two goal hero Blackstock to take the plaudits.

Quite how Saints left Blackstock on loan at Derby as long as he did remains one of the great mysteries of the Redknapp regime and indeed it was another of our returning players, Nathan Dyer, that caught the eye with a series of penetrating runs reminiscent of Shaun Wright-Phillips. With more end product and more awareness of his defensive responsibilities, the boy is going to be some player.

It was all change in central defence once more with Tomasz Hajto and Darren Powell combining to reasonable effect, apart from falling asleep for the Brighton goal. Tomasz Hajto looked back to his best and shackled the huge figure of McCannon well despite getting a whack to the head for his troubles.

Baird, Kenton (Mills, 66), Hajto, Cranie (Prutton, 64)
Dyer, Quashie, Folly, Belmadi
Blackstock, Best (Ormerod, 45)
Subs: Smith, Walcott

On the Cross verdict

After four defeats on the bounce this was a great relief and a more than welcome win. After the depressing year that was 2005, it marks a good start to 2006 and it was great to hear St Mary’s rocking once again towards the end of the match after an understandably subdued atmosphere earlier in the game.

Special credit should go to the Brighton fans who were magnificent, with practically the capacity of the Withdean stadium crammed into the away corner and full of song and good humour. Like Saints they had many players out injured and worked hard to get back into the game only to come away with nothing as Saints pilled on the pressure at the close.

Saints fans were also treated to several encouraging moments little seen during the Redknapp era – star men Blackstock and Dyer for one.

Secondly, of course were the two poacher’s finishes from Dexter Blackstock, an area where we have struggled all season. The opening goal was beautifully worked with Cranie combining with Belmadi to run the length of the field and set up Blackstock with a perfectly weighted pass.

The second resulted from another great run from the indefatigable Nathan Dyer who skinned his man and powered in a cross cum shot from the right hand side of the box that Blackstock slid in.

Thirdly, was the fightback in the second half. Rather than fade for another depressing draw, Saints got their second wind and threw everything at Brighton. They then worked extremely hard to preserve their lead throwing themselves into challenges roared on by the crowd who responded to the players clearly warming to their task.

Finally, was an effective substitution with the ever willing Brett Ormerod coming on at half time to replace the ineffective Best and help Saints put more pressure on the Brighton back line. If only he could add the final scoring touch, the two of them have the makings of a decent partnership.

It was also a pleasure to meet George Burley for the first time who was upbeat, polite and unexpectedly shy. I genuinely believe we are in good hands for the long term, even if results do not go our way for the time being. It is important after the turmoil of the past year that we show a united front. The management clear out has been successfully concluded, now it is the turn of some of the players as Burley sets about trimming our bloated squad in the transfer window.

Man of the match: Dexter Blackstock gave a master display of the poacher's art that Saints have been crying out for all season. Man of the match for his goals alone, but also worked hard to retain possession against some aggressive defending.

Cameo of the day: Djamel Belmadi brought his full bag of tricks, including an improbable Zidane spin to retain the ball in defence.

Lemon of the day: He helped change the game when he came on, but just how did Brett Ormerod miss the target when clean through and only yards from goal? Shooting practice first thing Monday please to add to an otherwise good performance.