SAINTS 2 - CRYSTAL PALACE 2

CRUNCH TIME: Dexter Blackstock feels the force of goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly's challenge.

CRUNCH TIME: Dexter Blackstock feels the force of goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly's challenge.

First published in 04-05 Season Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Sports Writer

STEVE Wigley faces a battle to hold on to his job, but he should be given more time.

That view might not be popular right now but I don't think there are many managers out there who will change things for Saints.

The problems are deep rooted and do not all stem from whoever is manager.

Lack of stability in terms of managers has cost Saints, so what good is another change now?

Saints are suffering because they haven't invested properly in strengthening their squad.

Rather than seize on their opportunities after the FA Cup final, and again last summer, they let those chances pass them by.

Yes, the squad did need an added depth but it also needed a few players that were good enough to come straight into the side and improve it.

Rupert Lowe has not financed moves for enough of those kind of players.

And while it is highly commendable that the club is so well off financially, the dangers of under-investment are being seen loud and clear on the pitch.

Alan Ball was totally correct this week.

Wigley should remain in charge because few managers could do a better job in the circumstances.

What needs to happen in January is that Lowe needs to prove how much he wants Saints to survive and get out his chequebook and start spending.

Otherwise it's pretty clear which direction the club is heading in.

He cannot just hope things will get better because, in all probability, they won't.

Wigley has said that the chairman and the board don't deserve any criticism for the current problems. Frankly he does himself few favours by saying that.

This week, for the first time, he pointed to his injuries and said they meant the club didn't have sufficent competition for places.

Sure they have been unlucky - very unlucky at times - and some of the players they have had missing are the best at the club.

But in the summer Saints knew Matt Oakley, Michael Svensson and Marian Pahars could still take time to return.

But, rather than bring in top quality replacements and then look very strong when the injured trio returned, they decided to hope.

Last summer Saints brought in Jelle van Damme, Mikael Nilsson and Peter Crouch, yet none of these have been able to get into a struggling team with any regularity.

They do add a depth of quality to the squad but their absence from the starting XI highlights that Saints have not spent money on players that can automatically come into the starting XI and improve things.

As for competition for places, every fan you speak to feels the midfield isn't working very well. Yet Leandre Griffit, Yoann Folly and David Prutton can hardly get a place on the bench between them.

Wigley is wrong when he says there isn't competition, because in terms of numbers there is.

When players like Prutton, Van Damme, Folly and Nilsson can't even get on the bench, there clearly is competition.

What is lacking is the quality of players to come in and improve things, and the fact Wigley has pointed to the competition for places argument with established players out of the squad just proves this.

On Saturday 'crunch November' finished as it started - with a 2-2 home draw against a side Saints should have beaten.

After a stale first half, the game came to life.

Kasey Keller twice saved from Andy Johnson but was helpless to stop his excellent header on 48 minutes - it sounds like a stuck record, but yet again poor defending from a basic high ball cost Saints.

To their credit, Saints got straight back into it with Kevin Phillips finishing at the far post but then the lively Wayne Routledge hit a shot that deflected off Andreas Jakobsson and left Keller with no chance.

Palace were not a great side but they had pace, purpose and direction - all things Saints badly need.

After Dexter Blackstock had missed a couple of decent chances and Anders Svensson was not awarded a penalty when there was a coming together with Fitz Hall, Saints equalised.

Jakobsson slid in to make it 2-2. But Saints didn't push on and didn't look like winning.

The nice fixtures that November contained reaped five points from 12 and contained a 5-2 defeat at Watford.

It was a bad month.

December on paper is tough.

Wigley needs to keep his job.

The fans don't blame him for the current predicament but the time is fast approaching when all this talk of ambition is backed up with some action.

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