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Southampton 2 Charlton Athletic 3
THIS game was a stark reminder that ultimately no matter what the fans or administrators do off the pitch, it is the players on it who will decide the team’s fate this season.
The rallying call went out to the fans – turn up and cheer on your Saints, and they duly did their bit.
They put some much-needed cash into the football club’s coffers and two more attendances like this should be enough to see them through to the end of the season, by which time a buyer will hopefully have been found.
Whether the fans were back to specifically cheer on this team, or whether this was a case of rallying behind their club, is less clear.
What is for sure is that the fans gave the side their total backing.
You would have to say, in fairness, that has been the case all season at St Mary’s no matter how bad it’s been.
In truth Saints probably just deserved to lose this game because of the basic mistakes they made in both boxes. It is a big setback but they must regroup for two tough away games from which they have to take plenty of points.Adam Leitch
However Saints’ home record unfortunately proves that support appears to do the team little good.
The fans can do their bit and turn up and cheer, but they can’t go out on the pitch and do the business.
It is not they who can defend such basics as a punt up the field from the goalkeeper or a player attacking down the outside and being allowed to get in a shot.
They can’t get through one on one with the keeper and finish inside rather than outside the post or put a tricky chance from six yards in the back of the net rather than out for a throw in.
The players still have a massive amount of responsibility as well.
It’s not all down to the fans or administrators, it’s down to them too.
Sadly against Charlton, they didn’t perform as they can.
You couldn’t accuse the team of not trying – they really did put everything into it.
But whether it was the pressure of the occasion or whatever, they made some very basic errors.
It’s been the story of the season.
You can understand anxiety amongst their ranks, that is totally forgivable in the circumstances, both with their league position and the way the club is.
You can understand them letting their minds wonder to whether the Football League will deduct them ten points this week, meaning they will without doubt be relegated this season anyway.
But many more performances like this and the League’s intervention will not make a difference come the final reckoning.
Despite all this doom and gloom, we have to try to remain positive.
Saints play twice before most of their relegation rivals have another game and at least four points will apply pressure to others and give them a decent chance.
It is no small mercy that four of their remaining matches are away from home.
Ironically the money men would be desperate for it to be the other way around but a quick look over results this season tells you that for the team it’s probably better to be away.
Barring a great run, the number of sides Saints can realistically expect to finish above is shrinking but there are still three and therefore we must not lose hope.
At the very least the team do not look as though they have accepted relegation as inevitable, so we must not either.
There is no getting away from how big a setback losing at home to Charlton is, though.
In fairness to Phil Parkinson’s side, they pretty much know they are down and so played with total freedom and because of that were one of the better sides we have seen at St Mary’s this season.
However, Saints gave them more than a helping hand by defending dreadfully, something you have to say has been very unusual since Mark Wotte took charge.
It took just seven minutes for that to manifest itself as keeper Robert Elliot pumped a long ball down the middle and Tresor Kandol was inexplicably allowed the freedom of St Mary’s to flick it on.
Charlton had done their homework and got runners from deep breaking past the Saints defence who were so square. This time it was Jonjo Shelvey in between Jake Thomson and Jan-Paul Saeijs and he coolly slotted low past the advancing Kelvin Davis.
It was a major setback but Saints didn’t lie down and levelled on 17 minutes when David McGoldrick robbed Nicky Bailey of the ball.
He burst into the area with real purpose and hit a shot with his left foot that was perfectly placed into the bottom corner.
At that stage you thought Saints had got away with and would go on to win. But it was just not that sort of afternoon.
Saeijs had a shocker on 26 minutes when he needlessly hauled down Kandol in the area, conceding a penalty for the second time in as many games. Kandol took the kick but it was weak and down the middle and Davis saved.
Andrew Surman’s header forced Elliot into a good save before the break before Kandol headed onto the roof of the net.
With the scores level at half time, you felt Saints had a great shout of snatching the win.
After a few close calls at both ends, Charlton restored their advantage on 60 minutes as Kandol’s blocked shot ran out of the area to Therry Racon who chipped a remarkable effort from 25 yards up and over Davis, curling it into the opposite top corner.
Jason Euell had a golden opportunity to equalise when through one-on-one and he curled his effort wide of Elliot but also wide of the far post.
And Saints were made to pay on 69 minutes as Bailey glided past Thomson and Saeijs and shot across Davis from a tight angle to make it 3-1.
Suddenly Saints threw everything at Charlton.
Marek Saganowski should have done much better when from six yards out his shot from a tight angle went out for a throw in before sub Bradley Wright- Phillips’ tremendous volley into the top corner from 12 yards out made it 3-2.
Saeijs looped a header onto the roof of the net while off the pitch both managers were sent to the stands after an unseemly altercation.
But in the end Saints had left themselves too much to do.
In amongst all the talk of the responsibilities of the fans and administrators, the players still have their bit to do.
They are trying, but staying up is still proving a big ask.