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Saints 3 Sheffield United 2
AS SAINTS fans wake up this morning, some no doubt nursing sore heads, they will start to reflect on quite what happened at St Mary's yesterday and indeed this season.
Rather in keeping with the team, and the Championship season, the final day was the ultimate emotional rollercoaster.
The tension before the match after all the hype and the build-up was unbearable.
But there was hardly much of a relief when the game started.
There were long periods where you had your doubts as to whether Saints were going to stay up But in the end they did it - what they had to do.
There were joyous celebrations at the end of the game, a pitch invasion no less, and the players were treated like heroes.
It was an incredible final day game which had just about everything. Credit to Saints for pulling out the result and in particular Nigel Pearson who deserves the praise he is receiving. Now the club must make sure this dismal season is not repeated.Adam Leitch
The release of so much raw emotion and relief no doubt triggered it and people probably enjoyed their Sunday evening celebrations.
But as the time for reflection comes so will the realisation that there wasn't really that much to celebrate.
For a club like Saints, to avoid relegation to League One is not a success - it's no way near good enough that it ever came to that.
The irony was not lost on many people that some of the players being given a hero's reception on the lap of honour are the same ones who have under-performed and landed the club up in this mess in the first place.
The people who have to take most credit out of it, and the ones that genuinely deserve a celebration, are Nigel Pearson and the loan players he brought in.
They came here when the pressure was already well and truly on and did their bit to help the team out of it.
Whatever yesterday's result, Pearson had already shown he has enough about him to be kept on next season.
He should be given a chance to show what he can do with a clean slate, rather than with his hands tied behind his back as he has operated in recent weeks.
Loan pair Richard Wright and Chris Perry have been simply magnificent and again both played a massive role yesterday.
For most of the rest of the playing squad, it's a little more indifferent.
At least, though, when the pressure really came on they kept their bottle, held their nerve and did what was required.
They had to win and hope for the best - and it all worked out in the end.
Quite apart from the tension of two teams with something to play for meeting on the final day, the game against Sheffield United was full of incident and drama.
It looked ominous for Saints when United took the lead on 24 minutes, Billy Sharp crossing from the left and Stephen Quinn heading in at the far post after he snuck in untracked behind Jermaine Wright.
Andrew Surman was posing most of the problems for United attacking from left back and his form forced United into a first half change with Keith Gillespie replacing David Cotterill in a bid to keep him quiet.
After Paddy Kenny charged out well to block Marek Saganowski's effort, came what proved to be a defining moment for Saints.
With 42 minutes gone Matthew Kilgallon met Michael Tonge's corner with as sweet a header as you're likely to see.
The ball looked certain to end up in the back of the net and from 2-0 down you couldn't have fancied Saints to stay up.
But somehow Richard Wright just reacted enough to block it.
Saints went up the other end, Jhon Viafara's cross was deflected up to the far post and Saganowski flew in to equalise with his first goal since September.
It made such a difference to the game and just eight minutes after half-time Saints were in the lead.
Saganowski managed to get the ball through into Stern John who broke the offside trap to find himself with time and space in the area and he lashed his effort past Kenny.
But Saints being Saints, they couldn't leave it there.
After Darren Powell put a free header from a corner wide it was 2-2, sub Jon Stead finishing at the near post from Quinn's low ball in.
Suddenly there was urgency from both sides who needed the win so much.
But it was Saints who delivered a telling blow on 69 minutes when John turned sharply in the area and dragged a low shot into the bottom corner.
There was a sour note to the day for John who was sent off with nine minutes remaining.
Having already been booked for taking off his shirt when celebrating his goal, he received a second yellow card for a late challenge on Derek Geary.
But by that stage United had realised their play-off dream had slipped away and Saints were determined not to let go of what they had.
In the end Saints were actually comfortable in the last few minutes - even if the fans weren't.
When the final whistle went it was joy unconfined and the most incredible scenes at St Mary's - celebration, yes, but mostly relief.