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Saints 1 Leicester City 0
IN A WEEK when the commitment of certain Saints players has been questioned, Nigel Pearson couldn't have asked for much more effort from the side he put out last night.
It has certainly been a tough few days for Pearson to have to deal with.
His job was undoubtedly hard enough without being let down so badly by two of his young stars.
When you want a team concentrating on football and focussing on a vital match to try and stay up, the last thing you want to see is national newspaper headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Although it was just two individuals involved, when the team are doing poorly it inevitably leads fans to question how many of the side lack commitment to the cause.
However, the Saints players sent out by Pearson to face Leicester provided answers - and positively.
Occasionally the effort was misdirected, and often the quality on show was below the levels you would hope.
But there could be no doubt as to the heart of the men on the field in red and white.
In fairness to Leicester, they were much the same.
Both teams worked hard and wanted it and one look at the teamsheet told you that both squads had good enough players not to be in the positions they are.
But the game rather summed up why both sides find themselves in trouble around the bottom.
For all the work and effort, there was a distinct lack of quality.
It was at times clearly a case of nerves and the situation getting the better of them.
Passes were hurried and misdirected, a foot was put through the ball too early, there was a lack of confidence and creativity in the final third.
But this is the stage of the season where results are more important than performances - and this game was as big as they come.
For Saints, a defeat would have left them in desperate trouble and really struggling to stay up.
A draw would have been better but only very marginally because it kept Leicester in it.
But a win would give Saints some breathing space again, and just as importantly a bit of confidence and a springboard to finish the season well.
Pearson has recognised that the best way to get results at this stage is to make sure his team is well organised and well drilled.
The one thing they lacked is that killer touch in the final third, but that can - and will - come if results improve.
There were very few chances for either side last night, and as the match wore on you always got the impression that one goal would be enough to win it - and so it proved.
Leicester started brightly enough and Steve Howard, the man who haunted Saints for Derby last season, had two great opportunities to give his side the lead.
The first came after just seven minutes.
DJ Campbell managed to get to the by-line on the right wing and cut the ball back to Howard who was arriving at the near post.
It seemed his momentum as his slid towards goal would take the ball in but he somehow managed to direct it wide of Michael Poke's post when it seemed easier to score.
He was equally baffled on 13 minutes when a great cross arrived from the left which was begging to be headed in from ten yards.
However, Howard appeared to totally misjudge it and the ball skimmed off his forehead and never got close to threatening.
It took Saints until just before the break to get a shot on target.
It was Andrew Surman who pulled the trigger from the edge of the box, but it was weak and comfortable for Paul Henderson in the Leicester goal down to his left.
The rest of the first half, much like the second, was a real scrap.
But Saints' slight extra quality on the ball did start to tell.
Matt Oakley's weak backheader saw Henderson have to scramble off his line to stop David McGoldrick getting in four minutes after the break.
But, after Matt Fryatt's header had been caught by Poke, Saints struck the decisive blow.
On 76 minutes Stern John responded quickly to a high ball over Leicester's backline, broke the offside trap and turned it home as it dropped out of the air.
Saints did have a couple of late scares, Fryatt missing the target from a great position and the same man curling just wide in stoppage time.
But when the final whistle went, it was relief for Saints whose effort and heart paid dividends to produce what could be a crucial win.