SAINTS 0 - LEICESTER 0

BUNDLED OVER: James Beattie clashes with Nikos Dabizas.

BUNDLED OVER: James Beattie clashes with Nikos Dabizas.

First published in 03-04 Season

AFTER last night's match, Losing My Religion by REM pumped out on the St Mary's PA. Perhaps it should have been Keep the Faith.

There were the first murmurs of discontent among the Saints faithful since Gordon Strachan took charge.

It was probably only a vocal minority - at the end of the day Saints are still eighth in the table.

But nevertheless a few fans are getting worried.

And they let the team, the manager and a few of the players in particular know about it.

Singling out individual players for abuse didn't seem very fair at all.

This is a team game and it's as a team that Saints have shortcomings right now.

You can understand fans venting their frustration if an individual doesn't appear to be trying, but that's not the case for Saints.

They are working hard, very hard in fact, but they just aren't playing very well - especially at the business end of the pitch.

Once they get to the final third, there are a lot of players who have a crisis of confidence.

That's not just talking about strikers in front of goal but also players who need to produce a telling cross when they're in a good position.

Many of them look scared of making a mistake and that fear in turn inevitably leads to an error.

Maybe it's a matter of getting a bit of luck but probably a few players just need to be a bit braver.

How you go about instilling that confidence back into players is not easy - I don't have the answers.

But after four games without a goal and no more than a handful of shots on target, things need to get better soon.

Fabrice Fernandes was restored to the side last night and epitomised just where Saints are going wrong at the moment.

His presence added to the team. He provided an additional outlet, an out ball for the defence.

He gets the ball and he is skilful enough to keep it.

He can twist and turn and make intelligent runs and get into good positions and does so much good work.

But then it comes to that final pass, cross or shot and it all goes wrong.

It's that problem, that final ball that is costing Saints.

It's no wonder the strikers are nervy and short on confidence. They are aren't missing any chances because they aren't getting any.

And this is causing a vicious circle effect.

With their confidence hit, they don't want to go for that long range shot - instead, they'll look to make an extra pass.

Ian Walker in the Leicester goal only had one save to make when Kevin Phillips turned James Beattie's cross goalwards on 80 minutes.

Likewise, Antti Niemi was only in action once to stop Muzzy Izzet's first-half free- kick.

Saints' other best chances in a drab and dull match fell to Fernandes and Phillips.

Beattie played the French-man in on goal on 15 minutes and his shot went across the keeper but wide of the far post.

David Prutton's surge down the right and ball in presented Phillips with a tough chance on 58 minutes and the striker managed to back-heel the ball from behind him, but it went just wide.

Anders Svensson and Beattie also came close but missed the target.

However, Leicester probably had the best opening of the match.

After 24 minutes, Jamie Scowcroft's ball into the box was knocked back by Marcus Bent for Les Ferdinand, who had the goal at his mercy from ten yards out.

But he mishit his shot and the ball went wide of Niemi's post.

In the end, the draw was probably a fair result.

Saints will be pleased with a clean sheet against a high scoring side such as Leicester - that was the major positive to come out of the game from their point of view.

But at the other end, things still need to happen.

How you go about lifting players is hard to say.

But the one thing you know about football is that it only needs to click once and things could quickly get a lot better.

That's probably the reason Strachan has chopped and changed the midfield areas.

He hopes that somebody will just come in and set Saints alight.

David Prutton has done his bit but the rest of the midfield haven't joined him yet.

Perhaps it may be time to revert to something like the winning formula of last year and stick with it and see if that helps.

Whatever Strachan does, he will be aware that it needs to change soon before the players start to worry as much as some of the fans are now.

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