AT times Saints were unlucky, on other occasions wasteful, but after a good display ended in another home defeat the task of getting the team into the top six is growing harder for the next manager.

In Jason Dodd and John Gorman's first game in charge against Bury, their team never played anywhere near their best.

They rarely got their passing game going and were lucky to come away with a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

For much of their second game, last night's Championship clash with Norwich, the opposite was true.

Saints had a right good go and played very well. Some of their football was terrific.

They hit the woodwork three times and while on another day the luck could have gone their way, they also could have done better in front of goal.

Ultimately, though, it was a sixth home defeat of the season which is just not good enough if you are serious about finishing in the top six, which Saints insist they still are.

Norwich, though they do have quality belying their position as strugglers this season, have been losing games on a regular basis.

Yet they have somehow managed to beat Saints twice this season.

Saints showed glimpses of what they can do last night but are well off the play-off pace.

The justification for the belief that Saints could reach that top six has been that they haven't been far away and there were plenty of games left.

Despite a more positive feeling, the gap is still there - seven points, the same as the margin between Saints and the drop zone - and the number of games quickly diminishing.

Saints can still get there but the new manager will have to inspire a great run.

That is a big ask.

Dodd and Gorman sent their team out in a 4-3-3 formation and they were bright for most of an entertaining game.

Grzegorz Rasiak hit the post for the first time on seven minutes, drilling past the keeper after Stern John's lay-off but hitting the inside of the near stick.

Dion Dublin was a real menace all night, despite his age still a class act and so strong in the air.

Kelvin Davis twice had to turn efforts from him over the bar before it was Rudi Skacel's turn to hit the woodwork.

From 25 yards out he whipped a free-kick over the wall but saw the ball clip the top of the bar.

Skacel and John both went close before Norwich finished the half in the ascendancy.

In the closing moments before half time, Ched Evans had a free header from a free-kick which hit the post before Davis made a good save from the follow-up.

But there was no escape for Saints when their diamond formation was exposed by Lee Croft, who got to the right by-line and cut back for Evans.

He jinked outside to get himself a bit of space for a shot and drilled a shot that was deflected past Davis from 12 yards out.

The second half was if anything even more frustrating for Saints.

Just four minutes after the restart Rasiak drilled another low shot only to see it strike the near post again.

Bradley Wright-Phillips went close with an effort across goal but just wide of the far post, while appeals for a penalty were turned down after Rasiak fell in the area.

There was no doubt where the ball should have ended up on 70 minutes.

Adam Hammill's free-kick was heading towards Wayne Thomas at the far post before Gary Doherty's arm went up and deflected it away from him, the referee deciding it was a yellow and not red card offence.

After Rasiak missed his penalty at the same end against Bury, the responsibility was left to John.

His spot-kick was even worse than Rasiak's, flying well over.

Skacel did test David Marshall a minute later with a shot that was turned round the post.

But with Norwich then defending for their lives, Saints never created a better opening as they ran out of ideas.

The result may well speed up the appointment of a new manager, even though the team are clearly giving their all for Dodd and Gorman whose case for a longer spell was put by the nature of this upbeat performance.

But whoever it is will need to hit the ground running with a string of wins if the season is going to end with Saints in the top six.

Daily Echo Man of the Match: Rudi Skacel
Again he was the one looking to push on and make things happen for Saints.