THE OVERRIDING question after Saints’ comprehensive defeat at Huddersfield was ‘where did that one come from?’ After two promising displays and two decent results, things were looking up and up for Saints.
But the performance at the Galpharm Stadium was a horror show.
By the end it became a sad reminder of some of the performances and results we saw last season that culminated in relegation to League One.
That same mental fragility that Alan Pardew appeared to have rid the team of in double quick time was back.
There was no lack of effort, make no mistake about that.
But a lack of toughness mentally, almost a fear at times of getting the ball down, and a frailty all over the pitch that made you think Huddersfield would score every time the ball entered the Saints half.
There’s no point in hammering Saints because this awful performance came on the back of two very good ones. But it did serve to ground anybody getting too carried away and underlined there is a lot of work to do and players to be signed yet.Adam Leitch
Perhaps, on reflection, it was too much to ask that after not just last season but several years of being downtrodden and used to losing, that the entire culture at Saints could be turned around in a few weeks.
In fairness, the more you think about it the more you realise that was an unrealistic expectation.
But at the same time Saints cannot afford much more of this.
Huddersfield are a good team and most sides that go there this season will leave empty handed.
But if Saints were to play like this regularly, they would lose to most teams in the division.
Having said that, there was no point getting too carried away by the opening couple of results and performances and there’s no point getting too carried away by this defeat.
We can put it down to a blip but Saints must ensure it is only that.
Saints were shaky at the back as Huddersfield tried to turn them with high balls and get in behind and vulnerable when they attacked down the wings.
The fact that the goals came directly or in second phase from set pieces does little in itself to dispel comparisons with the past.
Though Saints often went route one, thus bypassing the midfield, that area seldom threatened to get a grip on the game.
The front pairing of Grzegorz Rasiak and Rickie Lambert got little supply to speak of but also played a relatively similar sort of game.
Incredibly, bearing in mind what was to come, it was actually Saints who settled the quicker and Adam Lallana almost gave them the lead with a lobbed half volley on the turn from 20 yards that dipped just over the bar.
Aside from one ball into Lambert’s feet that he held up and laid to Lloyd James whose shot deflected over, that was as good as it got for Saints in the first half.
Kelvin Davis must have thought it was 2008/09 all over again as his role was largely to produce a series of great stops to keep the score down.
Davis saved brilliantly from Lee Novak, throwing himself in the way of the ball after some slack defending allowed the ball to bounce in the box and the Huddersfield striker the time to control on his chest and volley from close range.
Davis also dived full length to turn wide a deflected Peter Clarke shot from the edge of the area in a half that also saw Jordan Rhodes put a shot into the ground from close range that bounced over.
The only real positive at half time was that the match was goalless.
Saints would surely be better in the second half.
But Davis was back in action just two minutes after the restart, brilliantly turning over from Novak.
Davis even threatened the ultimate in heroics when, for the second week in a row, he saved a penalty.
This one was conceded by Chris Perry who was adjudged to have bundled Novak over in the box.
Rhodes took it but it was weak and Davis got down low to his left to save.
Only this week the luck was not with him and when the ball spun off his body it went back to Rhodes who gratefully tapped the Terriers into the lead from one yard.
Amazingly Saints got themselves back level four minutes later when Lallana’s corner was met by a towering header from Lambert.
It was so powerful Adam Smithies could only parry it on to the underside of his bar.
The ball bounced out but the linesman flagged to signal Saints had equalised.
They didn’t deserve it, but this is football so who cares?
This was a chance for Saints to kick on and get something.
Sadly it had the opposite effect as Huddersfield were rampant for the remainder of the match.
They restored their advantage on 68 minutes when a corner was cleared back out to the left and the whipped ball in was met by a diagonal run by Rhodes who wasn’t tracked.
His flicked header with pace already on the ball gave Davis no chance.
The points were sealed with eight minutes remaining when Davis somehow saved a flicked header from in amongst a crowd of players after a deep left sided free kick, but Antony Kay was on hand to head back into the net.
Davis had another couple of saves to make to top the day off while his opposite number, Smithies, was largely redundant for most of the afternoon.
This, hopefully, will be a game quickly forgotten.