FOOTBALLING miracles do sometimes happen, but the chances of Saints getting one to keep them up looks very slim indeed.
The 2-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday was a crushing blow.
Not just to the league position, but to morale.
After the game the players and management looked like a bunch who had just been relegated.
In truth, they all but are.
As disappointing as this result was, it isn’t one game or one performance that relegates a team ... it is over the course of an entire season.
A dreadful day for Saints, who deserved to lose a game they had to win. It does need a miracle for them to avoid relegation now but they have to do their bit and win two games and hope for the best ... but the end appears to be very near.Adam Leitch
Nobody wants to totally write Saints off yet.
Stranger things have happened and two wins from their final two games and results going their way elsewhere and they could just about still do it.
But, on the balance of probabilities, it’s hard to imagine them winning two matches in a row at the moment, forgetting what anybody else does.
That’s been Saints’ problem for too long, a reliance on other teams when they haven’t done their bit.
Alright, they were unlucky that when they did hit a bit of form and strung together three wins in a row that they didn’t move out of the bottom three, and maybe that has been a decisive factor.
But then coming off the pitch on Saturday having not done their bit, it was all too predictable that this time Saints wouldn’t be let off the hook.
You can’t expect teams to keep on losing and eventually you will be caught out.
What was most disappointing about Saints at Sheffield Wednesday was the manner of the defeat.
Any neutral watching might well have thought they were seeing an end of season match between two teams stuck in mid-table and with little left to play for.
That is exactly what Wednesday are but you expected Saints to go for it, to put themselves on the line for the cause.
It just seemed the pressure got to them, as it has so often this season – their home form is testament to that.
They looked nervy in possession and made the most basic errors, giving the ball away all too often and getting themselves caught in some terrible defensive positions.
Those nerves in possession also led to them deciding just to aimlessly launch the ball.
So regularly the ball was just pumped up and over the top for the strikers to try and chase down.
But that is not the way for Saints to succeed.
That sort of play is borne from pressure and nerves and not wanting to make a decisive mistake.
It’s not a brave way of playing.
The frustrating thing was that on the odd occasion Saints did get the ball down and play they opened Wednesday up.
Wednesday didn’t roll over like Crystal Palace but they also didn’t look like they were about to risk life and limb to secure three points.
It was another game Saints could have won that they didn’t and in the end that has all contributed to the current position.
The full relegation inquest can be saved until such a time as it actually happens, if it does.
For now all there is to say is things very grim indeed.
Despite playing such a long ball game early on against Wednesday, Saints did still look to be in the running.
Wednesday had the first chance on seven minutes when Luke Varney flicked the ball inside to Francis Jeffers but from a tight angle he fired across goal but wide.
Bradley Wright-Phillips at least delivered a good ball four minutes later with a low cross that nobody was quick enough to get in the box and on the end of.
Wednesday went straight up the other end and missed a sitter as a left wing cross found its way to Varney at the far post, but the Derby loanee sidefooted over from close range with the goal gaping.
But the reprieve was only temporary and the Owls did take the lead on 24 minutes.
After Saints had lost the ball in a poor position, they conspired to allow Jeffers to thread it through to Varney.
Saints appealed he was offside, which replays later confirmed, but the flag stayed down and Varney went straight through the middle and slotted low past Kelvin Davis.
David McGoldrick had a good chance two minutes later as he dived through a pile of bodies to win a header but put it over.
Varney had another opening on 31 minutes but this time he headed wide from eight yards when he should have scored.
Saints showed themselves the way ahead when they got the ball down and played five minutes before the break and created a good chance as Rudi Skacel crossed low to Jason Euell. His shot was not clean and Lee Grant got down to save.
The saving grace for Saints was that they surely would play better in the second half and were only one goal behind at the break.
There were early signs of that as McGoldrick curled a right-footed shot narrowly over but after that Saints created nothing.
Instead it was Wednesday who got the next, decisive goal.
It was a shambles from Saints’ point of view as a simple throw in was defended poorly, Varney spun in and now in acres of space nudged it around the advancing Davis and walked it into an empty net.
The looks on the faces of the Saints players at the final whistle said it all.
It’s not over – but it nearly is.