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SAINTS 0 - BIRMINGHAM 0
10:34pm Tuesday 30th May 2006 in 04-05 Season
WHILE THE statistics surrounding Saints aren't getting much better, the performances certainly are.
And surely it's now only a matter of time before the wins start to come for Steve Wigley's men.
Kicking-off against Birmingham propping up the Premier League was a rather depressing moment that Wigley would not have hoped for so early into his first big job.
But Saints didn't play like a team that were at the bottom of the league.
By contrast they, like fellow strugglers Birmingham, looked composed and confident. It was the kind of mid-table fare which you expect these two teams to be competing in.
Neither are, though, and the reasons for that were also obvious.
Below the shiny surface of neat passing, good moves and intelligent defending was the feeling that both sides lacked a cutting edge - and so it proved.
Saints have still not won under Wigley in the league and so the on-going stat of points taken from points possible again looks worse - now three from 24.
Also the fact that goals have been so hard to come by lends itself to nearly 400 minutes since the last league strike.
And then there's that bottom of the table stat. Well, at least that one has improved after the weekend, albeit by virtue of goal difference.
But on the evidence of this game Saints shouldn't have too much to worry about ... provided they can get their strikers fit.
After the start they've had, it's not going to be a great season in the league now.
A struggle against relegation running right to the end can still be avoided, though.
What Wigley has found among all the injuries is two wide-sided pairings that he must persist with.
Jelle van Damme and Neil McCann on the left and Darren Kenton and Mikael Nilsson on the right look good.
Both flanks finally seem to combine that look of solidity with a feeling of attacking threat.
Indeed, Saints looked at their most vulnerable when Wigley decided to take off Nilsson as Birmingham brought on Jesper Gronkjaer.
With Antti Niemi, Claus Lundekvam and Andreas Jakobsson, you don't worry too much either.
It's just those areas that are the most difficult - in the final third - that Saints are lacking.
Wigley experimented with Fabrice Fernandes playing just off the front man but it didn't really work.
After Saturday's trip to Arsenal, a difficult game anyway, Saints should have strikers back to support the likes of Dexter Blackstock, who looks like one for the future.
Then comes that crucial November period with games against the three promoted clubs and Portsmouth - of which only Norwich is away.
If Saints can get scoring then some of the statistics will go away and a cloud will have been lifted.
It is just an 'if' but at least now everything else is in place and Wigley must hope the return of some additional quality up front will make that happen.
One thing you couldn't accuse Saints of against Birmingham was any lack of commitment.
There was hard work and strong tackles, just not much in the way of chances.
Saints had the better of the first half with Blackstock's header flicking the top of the bar after ten minutes and Nilsson hitting the side netting when he should have done better just before the break after skipping past Maik Taylor in the Blues goal.
In the second half Saints still dominated areas of the pitch and had plenty of possession, but it was Birmingham who looked the more likely to score.
Darren Anderton missed one good chance and had another superbly saved by Niemi, while David Dunn blazed over the bar when he should have done better after having the ball pulled back to him.
The introduction of Brett Ormerod gave Saints an added threat and his passion, pace and hard running gave them an extra impetus that unfortunately they couldn't quite capitalise on.
Things aren't actually as bad as they look for Saints.
With Arsenal to come next week they could get worse before they get better, but at least there were far more positive signs again in this game.
Saints just need to get that cutting edge as one point for a draw is a big difference from three points for a win at the moment.