NEWCASTLE 2 - SAINTS 1

Daily Echo: ON FORM: Peter Crouch swoops to bring Saints back into it at 2-1 just before the break. Daily Echo pictures by: Paul Collins. ON FORM: Peter Crouch swoops to bring Saints back into it at 2-1 just before the break. Daily Echo pictures by: Paul Collins.

AND SO it seems another decent result has provided another false dawn in Saints' season.

As has so often been the case in this poor campaign, just when it seemed there was increased hope and a chance for some added optimism, it fell flat at the first hurdle.

It's becoming a regular occurrence now, so much so that you're almost desensitised to it.

The first Carling Cup win at Northampton, the victory over Colchester in the same competition, the 2-2 draw with Arsenal, the win over Portsmouth and now a second win over Northampton.

After each one, it seemed the time was right and the stage now set for Saints to kick on and use it as a springboard to better things.

But each time, the added zip failed to materialise and the chance of some badly-needed momentum slipped away.

There was some good news on Saturday - but most involved Crystal Palace and Norwich also losing.

The three from four to go down scenario at the bottom now looks certain, as does the likelihood of being able to survive with a low points total.

Right now, none of the bottom four sides really look likely to beat any side other than each other.

They all have to face one another in the run-in to the end of the season, so the difference between survival and relegation is likely to be the results in those games.

You could argue that Saints may need to only win three more games, and then one other, to stay up - as long as three of them are against Palace, Norwich and West Brom.

It's all theories and mathematics now. That has replaced expectancy and much hope.

Cards on the table time. West Brom and Norwich look to be set to go down so for my money it's one of Palace or Saints for the fourth spot.

If Palace keep hold of Andy Johnson and Wayne Routledge this month and keep them fit, then it will be close.

Because, as much as those bottom teams don't look like beating anyone other than each other, of the four, Saints and Palace are the ones who have the potential to buck that trend.

You could still see Saints picking up a shock win against a decent team at home.

You could see them beating Aston Villa and Everton at St Mary's or winning at Blackburn.

Similarly, Palace are capable of picking up an odd result like that as well.

But, in truth, it's all rather depressing.

Most people predicted this would happen and the club have allowed themselves to slip into this mess.

At least they have Harry Redknapp in charge now. The results might not have picked up much but, without him, there would be very little hope indeed.

We've been saying the same thing for weeks but he needs to be backed in the transfer market.

Jamie Redknapp, Calum, Davenport and Nigel Quashie are all good signings but Saints are still missing that focal point, that big name, that star to lift the fans, the dressing-room, the club.

That will cost money. Big money in wages if not in a transfer fee.

And, if Rupert Lowe continues to drag his heels in coughing up to keep Saints up, then it will be too late before he knows it. The gravity of the situation must surely have hit home by now.

At Newcastle on Saturday, there was a slight air of resignation, a lack of self belief in the first half.

It wasn't helped by the injury to Antti Niemi, sustained as Shola Ameobi was adjudged to have been pulled back by Davenport and a penalty awarded.

Niemi was carried off and Paul Smith's first action was to pick an Alan Shearer spot-kick out of the back of the net.

Smith went on to have a fine game, producing a string of top saves from wave after wave of Newcastle attacks.

But there was nothing he could do to prevent the second on 37 minutes when slack marking allowed Titus Bramble the chance to finish at the near post.

Saints rallied and pulled a goal back three minutes before half- time when Peter Crouch fired home after Kevin Phillips had flicked Davenport's header from a corner on to the bar.

After the break, Newcastle were again rampant but not incisive and Saints took control in the last 20 minutes.

But, despite a good chance for Anders Svensson, two decent looking penalty appeals being waved away and a brilliant last-ditch block by Steven Taylor from David Prutton's shot, the game ended in another defeat.

The talk after the game was about taking some positives from the match. It's about time that actually happened.

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