Saints played out a 0-0 draw with Birmingham at St Andrews last night. The game took place under treacherous conditions, with snow severely hampering both teams. Birmingham were on top in a scrappy opening, with Guirane N'Daw heading narrowly wide from a free kick. Saints gradually got into the game, and enjoyed a decent spell of possession during the final 20 minutes of the first half. Clear cut chances still proved hard to come by however. The closest the visitors came was on 19 minutes, when a well worked corner produced a shot that crashed into the side netting.
Birmingham nearly took the lead early into the second half when Marlon King's low drive was pushed round the post by Davis. Nigel Adkins introduced Billy Sharp to the proceedings, and the new signing nearly had an immediate impact when he was played in by Rickie Lambert in the Birmingham penalty area. Sharp was crowded out by opposition defenders however, and chose to shoot, when a simple ball back to an open Jack Cork would have been a better option. As the snow continued to lash down, the playing surface got worse and worse, with passes from both sides continually going astray. With 7 minutes left to go Saints were down to 10 men when Danny Fox received his second yellow card for pushing Chris Burke. Fox had earlier been booked for a nasty challenge on Burke in the first half. Adkins said after the game he thought the decision was harsh, although I'm not so sure. Both incidents were clear fouls, and the first tackle was particularly bad. It doesn't matter that Fox got the ball in the first challenge, because he followed through and took the player afterwards. Under the letter of the law a booking was entirely correct. The second decision was perhaps more debatable, but I can see why he gave it. Having said all that, Birmingham's Steven Caldwell was unlucky to come away with just a booking, when he cynically hauled down substitute Guly Do Prado, who was set to go through on goal after a neat one-two with Lambert. The resulting free kick came to nothing, with Lambert deciding to chip the ball into the far post for Jose Fonte, rather than go for goal.
An absolutely terrible game of football from start to finish. In hindsight it should have probably been called off for everyone's sake. Both sides are usually renowned for good passing football, but there was very little of that on show yesterday. Clear cut chances and adventurous play were very limited. Saints shouldn't be too unhappy with a point however, considering Birmingham are unbeaten at home all season. There aren't too many conclusions that can be drawn from the performance, considering it was played in such a freak environment. Despite losing ground on West Ham, Saints are still in a great position to push the Hammers all the way for the title, with a good run of fixtures coming up.
Attendance: 17,904 (1,555 Saints fans)
Davis: 7. Made one excellent save from King early in the second half
Richardson: 6. Not really tested defensively. A few decent dribbles forward
Fonte: 6. Didn't do a lot wrong. Kept the Birmingham front line fairly quiet
Martin: 6. Made a number of decent clearances.
Fox: 5. A few solid tackles, but atrocious passing.
Schneiderlin: 7. Made a number of good interceptions
Cork: 6. Saw a lot of the ball, and passing was pretty tidy. Unable to create much more due to the conditions.
Puncheon: 6. Worked hard yet again, although unable to create too many openings.
Lallana: 5. Struggled to get involved. Conditions certainly didn't help his style of play.
Lambert: 6. Kept pretty quiet for the most part. Struggled for service, although was occasionaly involved in some good link up play.
Connolly: 5. Decent movement, but didn't really threaten in fron of goal
Sharp: 5. Held the ball up well a couple of times, but overall a pretty quiet debut.
Guly: 6. Worked hard, adding a little bit more energy to the side. Won a late freekick in a dangerous area.
Hammond: Didn't really have enough time to make an impact