Saints did well to get a point at Reading following a disappointing display at the Madjeski Stadium. In truth Nigel Adkins's side never really got going, and put in their worst performance of the season so far. Reading deserve credit for defending well and limiting space in the final third, but the visitors movement and passing weren't at the level you would expect. The Royals were well on top in the first half, and would have gone into the break ahead were it not for the excellent form of Kelvin Davis. The Saints keeper made a number of fine stops, including one in the 24th minute from a low Simon Church shot. Later he pulled off a sublime fingertip save from a long range Mikele Leigertwood strike. Saints barely threatened the Reading back four during the first period, and lacked any real cutting edge going forward.
Adkins brought on Aaron Martin for the injured Jose Fonte after the break. Saints were slightly improved, but still nowhere near the level they are capable of reaching. Alex Pearce headed narrowly wide against his former club following a succession of corners. Martin then had a great chance to open the scoring when he met Danny Fox's free kick, but his header was too close to Reading keeper Adam Federici. Steve De Ridder, who replaced David Connolly, added a lot more energy to the visitors play and the contest became more open. Saints had another great chance when Danny Fox had a shot blocked, following a good passing sequence between Richard Chaplow and Rickie Lambert. Not long after, Reading took the lead after Jobi McAnuff hit the post from a free kick. The ball then fell to Leigertwood, who fired across goal into the back of the net. The home supporters would have been forgiven for thinking they had the three points in the bag, especially a few minutes later when Dean Hammond was sent off for a rash challenge on McAnuff. On 80 minutes however, Saints equalised through De Ridder. The Belgian latched onto a great flick on from Guly, before cutting inside past a Reading defender and firing in off the crossbar. Both sides went for it in the closing stages, but clear cut opportunities were limited.
Without doubt our least impressive performance of the season so far. We've been synonymous with great football recently, but there was very little of it on show yesterday. The fact that we still managed to retrieve a point in these circumstances is a good sign. Saints coped well without Adam Lallana against Derby and West Ham, but could have done with his bag of tricks to open things up. Our away form is slightly concerning, with no wins from the last five on the road. We haven't been able to control games away from St Marys the way we did in August at Barnsley and Ipswich. Our next three trips come against sides all currently sat in the bottom four of the Championship. If we don't pick up many points from those fixtures, our promotion credentials could be called into question. On the plus side, substitutes Steve De Ridder and Aaron Martin impressed after coming on. Both look to be in line for a start at Crystal Palace on Tuesday.
Attendance: 21,889 (4203 Saints fans)
Davis: 8. Kept the score down with a string of great saves.
Richardson: 6. Decent going forward, but got skinned on more than one occasions by Jobi McAnuff.
Fonte: 6. Still nowhere near his best.
Hooiveld: 6. Fairly reliable defensively, but distribution could have been better.
Fox: 7. Excellent delivery from set pieces and open play.
Guly: 6. Didn't get on the ball nearly as much as usual. On the plus side, he did provide the assist for the goal.
Hammond: 5. Below par all game until his sending off
Cork: 7. Passing generally decent, and some good forward runs.
Chaplow: 7. Our most creative player.
Connolly: 6. Worked hard, but didn't get the service from the rest of his teammates.
Lambert: 6. Struggled to make much of an impact for most of the contest, but was strong in the air, and got better as the game went on.
Martin: 6. Didn't do much wrong. His best performance of the season so far.
De Ridder: 7. Made a big impact immediately after coming on.
Schneiderlin: Looked good in the few minutes he was on.