9:35am Monday 30th April 2012
By Dan Kerins
THAT was the season that was and now it is nothing but something you’ll find in history books.
But before the body of 2011/12 is cold, let’s look back and pick out the best bits.
As previously mentioned in these pages, only the most optimistic expected Saints to be in the top two at any meaningful point in the season, let alone all if it.
Coming up from League 1, it just seemed a bit fanciful to think we were going to arrive in the Championship and dominate sides – but we did just that.
The opening game against Leeds was a real statement of intent – and a bit of a shock if truth be told.
Leeds haven’t been a bad side over the last couple of years, so to just blow them away was a pleasant surprise and it set the tone for much of the season.
The big away win at Ipswich was another big marker which suggested Saints were more than comfortable in the higher division, but for me it was a month later when I actually dared to dream about what we might achieve.
The demolition of Birmingham at St Mary’s was a result that suddenly allowed imaginations to run wild. Taking apart a team like Brum was a massive statement.
And so it continued. Watford, West Ham, Middlesbrough. All were brushed aside at St. Mary’s.
Chaplow’s injury in December coincided with a wobble – points were dropped, the consecutive home wins record lost and the failure to hold on to the lead at Fratton Park.
Lambert being banned for three games after a very dubious decision at the Amex certainly didn’t help either.
Was it just a temporary blip or had the bubble burst, like the inner pessimist suggested it would do?
By February, we had our answer as Saints began to find their feet again, buoyed by the acquisition of Billy Sharp and Tadanari Lee.
Saints had dropped points during that spell, but so had others – we were still top.
Then along came another run: Ten games unbeaten until the debacle at Bloomfield Road in March.
You can talk about the TV curse all you want but sometimes Saints have a tendency to perhaps be a bit naive - so desperate are they to attack they can occasionally push too much - and that was one such time.
But they dusted themselves off again. The last-gasp equaliser against Pompey was annoying, more so for who it was against rather than what it meant for the promotion charge, but the level of celebration from that lot down the road was quite something to behold.
The Reading game however was by far the most frustrating of the season. We surrendered top spot and ultimately the title that night.
But we’d played a lot better than we had been doing and I’d argue Saints were the better side on the night. Reading had three chances and three goals. You have to admit, that’s clinical and when you compare it to the number of chances we created - yet only converted one - you have to wonder how we didn't get more from that game.
We bounced back against Peterborough, only to blow it against Middlesbrough. For many fans the last week of the season was the longest they’ve ever known as a Saints fan.
And that brings us to Coventry – and you don’t need me to remind you how that went!
We're there, we're up and it's a great feeling to know that Saints are back in the big time once again!
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