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Saints 1 Colchester 1
THERE may be renewed optimism at Saints this season, but in the Championship it seems some things never change.
In the build-up to last night's game against Colchester, there were predictions of a good game of football and plenty of goals.
Both Saints and Colchester had started the season having no problem finding the net, but also with a liability to ship them at the other end.
Both sides like to play football - Saints are high tempo and expansive while Geraint Williams' team have built a reputation in the division for the quality of their football as well as their outstanding results.
So, all things considered, the predictions of a terrific game under floodlights at St Mary's seemed well founded.
How wrong they were.
A disappointing result from a disappointing game. Colchester made themselves very hard to beat and that is not easy to combat, but for all their dominance Saints failed to create many chances and ultimately paid the price with just one point.Adam Leitch
What we had was a pretty turgid affair with few chances for either side.
Instead of flowing football from Colchester, we had a much more familiar approach.
Last season it became almost an inevitability to see sides come to St Mary's and shut up shop.
Managers knew if they tried to match Saints pass for pass and leave themselves exposed, then the quality in George Burley's team would probably shine through and Saints would win.
So what teams did was come and make themselves hard to break down.
They would have two solid banks of four camped mainly in their own half defending the edge of their area, conceding possession some of the time but inviting Saints to come and break them down.
That task is far from easy and it was one that Saints at times struggled with last season.
Despite the theories to the contrary, Colchester did something similar last night.
In fairness to them, they did leave two up front and showed a little more attacking invention than many sides have done.
But, nevertheless, their understandable first priority was to make themselves difficult to beat.
For their part, Saints huffed and puffed but never found it easy and the need for more defensive cover was again glaring.
Chances were few and far between and credit to Colchester who executed their game plan well.
The fact Saints are still struggling against these teams is in a way disappointing but understandable, as it is easier said than done.
It's fair to say the first half will not live long in the memory.
It was tedious stuff.
The nearest Saints came was a long range effort from Youssef Safri that keeper Aidan Davison took at the second attempt, Jhon Viafara dragging wide when he should have hit the target, Grzegorz Rasiak's floated header saved and a half- shout for a penalty when Davison challenged at Nathan Dyer's feet.
But the best chance of the half fell to Colchester.
An unusual slip from Wayne Thomas allowed Kevin Lisbie in behind the defence and with a free run on goal.
He had all the time in the world as he closed in on Kelvin Davis, but somehow conspired to miss the target completely.
The second half was a little better and the game got the goal it so desperately needed.
Moments after a Rudi Skacel free- kick had been turned wide, Safri zipped the ball into the feet of Bradley Wright-Phillips in the area.
He had his back to goal and defenders behind him, but made the most of the yard of space they allowed him by quickly flicking the ball out, spinning and rifling a terrific finish into the bottom corner.
With Saints in the lead, you expected Colchester to have to come out and the increased space to allow Saints to play their stuff.
However, the lead lasted just six minutes.
The goal was an unfortunate one from Saints' point of view.
Mark Yeates pushed on down the right and drilled in a low cross.
Skacel slid in on the corner of the six-yard box to try and turn it behind but the ball deflected off him and flew into the far corner, leaving Davis with no chance.
Both sides had a couple of half chances after that.
The ball fell to Lisbie's feet after an aerial challenge in the area but he volleyed over.
Saints were also grateful Yeates shot straight at Davis after being given too much space to run in to.
Saints' other opportunities fell to Rasiak, but both efforts went wide.
It was a disappointing point when three were on offer.
And again it was a reminder that for all their firepower, Saints still need to find more invention against sides like this at home and be strong at the back.