SHEF UTD - 3 SAINTS 0

GOAL: Saints old boy Neil Shipperley slots home Sheffield United's third to complete Saints' dismal afternoon. Pics: Chris Moorhouse.

GOAL: Saints old boy Neil Shipperley slots home Sheffield United's third to complete Saints' dismal afternoon. Pics: Chris Moorhouse.

First published in 05-06 Season

IF THERE was any hint of complacency about Saints before the weekend, it damn well had better have gone now.

Another defeat on the road has left them nervously and needlessly looking over their shoulders once again.

Saints are now just six points away from the Championship drop zone and facing the very real prospect of getting involved in a scrap for survival for a second successive season.

And how utterly needless it is too.

Even at the halfway stage of the season, everybody was talking about whether Saints could mount a charge to the play-offs, not relegation.

The latter was a thought that had crossed the minds of very few, least of all at the club.

But let's spell this out now - Saints could get relegated this season.

They could end up playing in their beautiful stadium in League 1 next season.

They could become a laughing stock up and down the country for a spectacular demise.

It might all sound a bit melodramatic - it probably will prove to be in the final examination.

But it needs saying.

The way they are going is alarming, even though almost everybody is united in recognising George Burley is the right man to try and turn it around.

The trouble he has at the moment is getting his players to win matches.

It sounds simplistic but it's true. Only two league wins from his 16 games in charge paints a rotten picture for Burley.

Nobody is really pointing the finger of blame at him but the stats don't lie - and neither does the table.

In the past, we have spoken about the thin dividing line Saints have trodden all season, where potential wins that ended as draws cost them a shot at promotion.

But it seems, since the promotion dream died some time ago, some people have switched off.

To be fair, it seemed unlikely Saints would ever be dragged into the relegation zone - because we all assumed, no matter how much they struggled, they would pick up a few results.

But they haven't.

Now it is time for some people to wake up and stop letting this season drift away.

They have had the sharpest of sharp reminders that they have to keep playing - and there some who need to prove quite a lot right now.

They need to show character and that they want the best for the future of this club and not just themselves.

Everybody needs to feel they have a vested interest in doing well for Saints and, in truth, you don't get that impression from all at the moment.

Against Sheffield United, as against Watford, Saints were bullied out of it.

That is worrying.

If teams come and tear you apart with great passing football, then you just have to hold your hands up sometimes and say they're just too good.

But if you are being outfought, outworked and not matching the opposition's heart to get a result, there is a problem.

Every team that still has to play Saints will watch these two games and believe, if they scrap and fight, they will win as they want it more.

The players can't allow that to be the case, because any team can work and try hard.

Saints need reminding you need to match a team's effort and commitment, then you earn the right to show your superior footballing ability.

Saints started brightly enough , Peter Madsen scuffing a good chance from the edge of the area and Paddy Kenny producing a good save from Kenwyne Jones.

But, two minutes before half-time, Saints were behind when some loose defending allowed Chris Amrstrong to pick out Phil Jagielka in the box and he fired home.

It got even worse moments before the break when Saints failed to deal with a basic long throw and Paul Ifill provided the finish.

In the second half, the game was still there for Saints. You still felt if they got their act together, and played with some confidence and purpose, that a point was not impossible.

But instead they retreated and, unfortunately, a few didn't look like they wanted it enough.

United rounded off the scoring when former Saint Neil Shipperley finished from close range after some madcap defending on the Saints goalline.

It was a wake-up call of deafening proportions.

Let's just hope it does the job.

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