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Swansea City 3 Saints 0
WHATEVER is going on at Saints right now, the players cannot afford to feel sorry for themselves.
For the sake of the season, the squad and Jan Poortvliet need to somehow get themselves up and ready for what has become a crucial match against Coventry tomorrow night.
No matter what has been said, the departure of Stern John has had a massive effect on the club.
Saints had a squad that was struggling but at least it seemed settled and the 0-0 draw at Sheffield United suggested that by mixing a little experience with youth that Poortvliet had finally got things as he wanted them.
Then, just a couple of days after that result and praising the performance of the rightly recalled John, the striker had suddenly left.
It was a demoralising and demotivating blow for the whole club.
No doubt it will be argued that the financial stability of the club comes before any one player.
But that doesn’t stop it hurting.
And if you get the feeling from the body language that it has hurt the players, and Poortvliet in particular, then that’s nothing compared to what it’s done to the fans.
The Saints faithful have stuck behind their team this season.
There has been a mentality all around the club that in these tough times everybody must stand together.
Dissenting voices only risk further destabilisation and the outcome of that could be catastrophic.
Now though you feel that has been blown wide open by John’s departure and the manner in which it appears to have happened.
Of course football is fickle and a few results will paper over any cracks as they always do.
But when the team are slumping as Saints currently are, and you loan out another proven goalscorer leaving only unproven youngsters in his place, it feels bad.
There were the first signs of dissent from the travelling Saints fans at Swansea.
It’s impossible to imagine anything other than another dismal attendance at St Mary’s tomorrow and if things don’t start well you imagine the protests are only going to increase in their fervour.
Sometimes you get a feeling a certain moment is defining, a straw that breaks the camel’s back.
It doesn’t always prove to be correct in hindsight, but right now John’s departure feels like that.
It certainly wasn’t helped by the display Saints put on at Swansea, but now Poortvliet and his squad must rally together because they simply have to beat Coventry tomorrow or the season will be in freefall.
One thing is for sure – they stand no chance whatsoever of getting a result if they play as they did at Swansea.
There have been some low points since Saints got relegated, but this was right up there with the worst of them.
It wasn’t so much the result but the manner of the performance.
Saints didn’t look like they’d score if they were still there now.
Up against a debutant 19-year-old keeper, Saints managed just three shots on target against Swansea, all from distance and all comfortable saves. That was the sum total of their attacking prowess.
Swansea were hardly world beaters themselves but had a gameplan and it worked, despite the amount of possession they conceded in the final third.
Thomas Butler hung out wide on the left, trying to get the ball deep and run at Lloyd James.
It led to the first goal on 12 minutes as he did exactly that, beating James and then cutting back to Darren Pratley who took one touch to control and another to drill the ball into the bottom corner.
It could have been worse for Saints at the break had Angel Rangel not hit the side netting when he should have done better five minutes before half time.
Saints knew they were still in the game and a reshuffle from Poortvliet gave added hope.
After a nasty and unfortunate injury to Marcos Painter, that hope was nearly ended when Ashley Williams headed over from eight yards out unmarked from a free kick.
But two minutes later it was 2-0.
Ferrie Bodde blasted in a right wing free kick that skipped up off the slick surface into the chest of Kelvin Davis. He should have held it but it popped out and Jordi Gomez tapped home from close range.
It was game over on 72 minutes when Butler went past James as if he wasn’t there and drilled in a low near post shot for 3-0.
In the closing minutes it became a case of Saints trying to limit the damage.
There has been a lot inflicted over the past week, mentally and physically, but the squad cannot afford to dwell on it or things could get out of control.