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Burnley 3 - 2 Saints
WITH HALF the season gone, it’s time for the talking to stop and for results on the pitch to improve.
Almost every week at Saints we seem to hear the same things.
We hear the players will learn, that goals will come, that the performances will ultimately bring results.
Also, the problems are mental ones the players need to fix or it’s because they are young.
With half the season now gone and Saints staring down the barrel of a long relegation battle, the time to prove that they can do it is NOW.
Potential is great but only if it is realised – and before it’s too late.
The club is already facing the depressing reality of having to fight for the second half of the season without a couple of their best players who will be sold in January. Also star loanees such as Jack Cork may not be around.
When you consider how well, or otherwise, Saints are doing with them, it is hard to hold a great deal of confidence that things will improve significantly without them.
You get the impression that both Jan Poortvliet and the players are sick and tired of having to come out before and after games and say the same things over and over again.
But the trouble is until they deliver more on the pitch – and for a full 90 minutes – there is not much other option for them.
You can’t disagree with Poortvliet or the players that there is a very strong case to be made that the potential to do much better is there.
However, results dictate in football and Saints need them to come right now to give the club a boost before the January transfer window.
The three league games before the end of the year are absolutely vital.
Obviously the game at home to Nottingham Forest next Saturday has to be won.
No other result is even thinkable.
But that has to be followed-up with good results at Plymouth on Boxing Day and at home to Reading two days later.
If Saints are facing the end of January in a massive battle for survival, the last few months of the season could feel very long indeed.
The game at Burnley felt a bit like that after a shambolic and frankly embarrassing first half hour.
It’s not often you think yourselves lucky to be just 3-0 down at half time but that was the case for Saints at Turf Moor.
Burnley took the lead after four minutes when lifelong Saints fan Wade Elliott’s low cross from the right was deflected into his own net by the unfortunate Chris Perry.
Joey Gudjonsson made it 2-0 three minutes later when Kelvin Davis virtually dropped the ball on his head in the middle of the six yard box having seemed to have fielded Steven Caldwell’s header back across goal from a corner as a result of a good save from Chris Eagles’ free kick.
After 11 minutes Elliott got to the by-line and cut the ball back to Gudjonsson, whose sidefooted effort made it 3-0.
Hard though it is to believe, it could have been even worse for Saints.
Robbie Blake hit the underside of the bar with a thunderous run and shot after just two minutes.
Martin Paterson also tested the frame of the goal, picking up a loose ball and firing against the outside of the post after another good Davis save, this time from Chris McCann’s long range effort.
Davis had to make other first half saves from Eagles and Paterson whilst the nearest Saints came was a flicked header from David McGoldrick that went wide.
It was a truly abysmal half of football from Saints who were understandably shell-shocked by their start.
As is too often the case with Saints this season, it needed them to have fallen apart to produce a stirring display.
After half-time they did just that and Burnley, having taken their foot off the gas, could have capitulated.
Just four minutes after the restart Saints gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Jason Euell’s deflected cut back was smashed into the net by Rudi Skacel from the edge of the area.
The comeback was well and truly on when Saints made it 3-2 on 61 minutes, Euell picking out Andrew Surman who produced a brilliant first time shot on the turn that fired into the far corner.
Suddenly you could sense the nerves at Turf Moor as Saints pushed on, but they were unable to create themselves another clear cut chance, despite possession in good areas.
Burnley rode out the storm and would have put the game to bed were it not for Davis producing more fine saves from Steven Thompson and Paterson.
The talk of potential has to stop.
It’s time to deliver.
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