SO 2008 for Saints ended with equal measure of disappointment and pride, optimism and frustration.
It was rather typical of what has been such a rollercoster of a year that Saints should put in a good performance, get what is a decent result – even if it should have been better – yet still see in January amongst the Championship’s bottom three.
There is little doubt that 2009 is going to be tough – well, at least until May anyway.
First up there is the January transfer window.
That will be a time to be realistic and also stoic, particularly if some of Saints’ brighter lights – like Adam Lallana and Andrew Surman, who both missed yesterday’s game through injury – are sold.
On the pitch it will be no easier.
Saints are a team with very little form in terms of results and when you are down there at this stage of the season you are generally down there for the rest of it.
It will be a battle for Saints to stay in the division.
Though they have put in plenty of good performances, scoring goals and therefore getting wins has been a major problem.
Just one home league win out of 13 attempts this season tells its own sorry story.
Yesterday’s game against Reading encapsulated everything that is so good and so bad about Saints this season.
The strange thing about this game was it was in many ways similar to Saints’ win at the Madejski Stadium.
You expected a lot of Reading but they didn’t deliver while Saints were up and at them from the start.
Saints pressed high up the pitch, never let Reading settle on the ball and defended very well.
The only major difference between the first halves of the two matches was that Saints didn’t get a goal when they were on top this time round.
Lee Holmes threatened on 11 minutes but could only pick out keeper Adam Federici with a volley from a tight angle.
Saints had two chances in the space of a minute a little later.
Both came from corners, the first from the right and the second from the left, that were won in the air and headed back across goal by Chris Perry.
It was Matt Paterson, making his first Championship start, who found himself with a chance to volley the first but he made a mess of it and it actually went away from goal.
David McGoldrick was the recipient of the second one and he smashed a first-time volley from ten yards out that rattled the crossbar and came back out.
Holmes tried his luck with a 20- yard free-kick on 34 minutes but Federici again fielded it.
At the interval the summary was that Saints had played well and Reading fairly poorly.
But you worried Jan Poortvliet’s side could end up paying for not getting their noses in front.
The game opened up in the second period, Reading starting in a more robust fashion but Saints’ backline still restricting their chances.
After McGoldrick had put in a powerful run that ended with him hooking over the bar, Saints had a chance on 62 minutes.
Lloyd James whipped in a cross from the right which found Paterson, whose first-time sidefooted volley was saved by Federici diving low to his left.
Jimmy Kebe worried the Saints defence for really the first time in the match with a far post volley but he put it wide.
Then came a vital moment as Saints took the lead on 71 minutes.
Second half sub Kayne McLaggon played the ball through to McGoldrick who showed the kind of finishing that has deserted Saints this season with a quality low shot past Federici.
However, it was then that Reading really stepped it up.
Saints were defending with their lives, somehow getting balls out of the box and keeping the Royals at bay.
But when Reading finally created a chance on 84 minutes, they took it.
Michael Duberry headed down a free kick and Shane Long got to it before Kelvin Davis, heading past the Saints keeper.
That set up a grandstand finale with both sides trying to win it.
Reading came so close when Noel Hunt’s cross picked out Kevin Doyle and his header hit the bar while Saints had appeals for a penalty for handball waved away.
In stoppage time Doyle threatened again, this time forcing Davis into a good save.
But as 2008 ended for Saints it was another creditable yet frustrating result that underlined exactly the problems they have to fix to make 2009 a happy new year.