Verdict: Saints 2 Bury 0

Last updated : 27 January 2008 By Saint Bobby
There are only two upsides for Saints. Firstly - despite our best efforts to the contrary - we won the game. Secondly, the bumper crowd of 25,000 attests to the enormous support base that Southampton can still tap into. But if this is what passes for entertainment at St. Mary's, then don't expect many of the fair-weather fans to return anytime soon.

The grinding dullness of the ninety minutes of so-called football was made worse by a pit-of the stomach feeling that no individual player was obviously under-performing.

Southampton's fortunes have now fallen so far that the faithful are reduced to watching a bunch of journeymen who nearly succeeded in their apparent aim of making the minnows of Bury look like their footballing equals. It is only thanks to the visitors' lack of any genuine class that Saints can still dream of catching a glamour draw in the next round.

And that really is all there is to dream about, because Southampton have no realistic prospect of making a significant impact on this year's competition.

After Bury nearly scored in the second minute - and then squandered a fantastic opportunity five minutes later, Southampton finally decided to show some vague interest in not submitting to humiliation on home turf.

But nine of the outfield players were clearly involved in some bizarre private pre-match bet about who would be the last person to pass to Drew Surman. That was a shame, as Surman was the only Saints player displaying a tangible desire to actually win the match.

It was twenty minutes before Southampton had a meaningful effort on goal and the half ended with a sense that 0-0 adequately summed up one of the most pitiful 45 minutes of football I have seen at St. Mary's.

Adam Hammill had shown some neat touches. However, his principal aim seemed to be to do a number of half-arsed Ronaldinho impressions only to play in Wayne Thomas on the overlap. This allowed the Saints no. 3 to prove - beyond a reasonable doubt - that he cannot and must not ever be fielded as a fullback on any football pitch ever again.

Andrew Davies' forced substitution at half-time combined with Powell's injury on the hour mark, did at least force a reshuffle that removed the hapless Jason Euell from his God-given right to a midfield berth, and in fairness he slotted in as a makeshift centre-back with a surprising level of competence.

The two goals that clinched victory were symptomatic of the dire quality of the match. Surman finally got the opportunity to pull the trigger from the edge of the box but needed a wicked and fortuitous deflection to open the scoring.

A questionable penalty with ten minutes to go gave Rasiak the chance to wrap up the match. It was a chance he was determined to squander. His woeful effort was spooned back out to him. He then allowed the keeper to make a second save from a couple of yards before finally bundling the ball in from about two inches. Even he couldn't miss from that range.

We also got conclusive proof that fielding players out of position isn't an addiction limited to the departed Burley. Euell as a cover for centre-back was an unfortunate necessity.

But taking off the lively Hammill in order to partner the statuesque Stern John with Rasiak, and switch B W-P to the right flank was self-inflicted lunacy.

This match wasn't so eye-scorchingly awful that my retinas are permanently scarred. But close. If this is the magic of the Cup, give me the tedium of mid-table league mediocrity any day.