Reading’s visit to Saints last season proved to be a defining fixture in the battle for the Championship title.
Tomorrow’s meeting at St Mary’s promises to be another pivotal encounter, but in an altogether different fight.
Eight months on from their promotion showdown, Saints and Reading are now scrapping away towards the foot of the Premier League table, both currently stuck in the relegation zone.
The uncomfortable transition from a perennial winner to a regular loser is one that many a team has to endure on arrival in England’s elite division.
Those who overcome it, and ultimately establish themselves as a stable top-flight side, often do so on the back of success against similarly-placed clubs.
Victory for either Saints or Reading tomorrow will, therefore, represent a hefty blow in this year’s fight for survival.
Last season, it was the Royals who landed the major punch, with their 3-1 win at St Mary’s effectively propelling them to the Championship title.
Revenge, however, is not a motivating factor for Saints manager Nigel Adkins.
“We’ve moved on and we’ve got where we want to be,” he said. “Our focus is on this now.”
Adkins points out that failure to win this weekend would not constitute “the end of the world” for his team.
While that is clear, Saints are in no position to be dropping points at home against teams around them.
By the time Christmas Day rolls round, Adkins’ side will have played ten of their 19 fixtures at St Mary’s.
The remaining nine games on their own turf will include seven of the current top ten. Liverpool, in 11th, are one of the other two clubs due to visit.
Failure to produce an impressive return of points from tomorrow’s contest against Reading and the subsequent home match against Sunderland in two weeks would be cause for some significant alarm.
Conversely, six points would give Saints a solid base to build from.
“We’re at home, you look to pick your points up there,” said Adkins. “That is massively important, especially against teams in and around you in the division.
“It is a game we’re looking to get the three points from. It is not the end of the world if we don’t, but we are very positive in our thinking, our attitude.
“We’re looking focused to make sure we get the performance right, which gives us the opportunity to pick up the three points.”