A 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace feels like a disappointment and is really frustrating, but as Mark Noble said after the final whistle: “It’s a clean sheet, another point and we’re on target for where we want to be.”
The game started with a great tempo and both teams were looking to go for it. Unfortunately, Palace consistently found space behind our defence and we had to rely on some decent last-gasp defending at times. It almost felt as though Faye and Reid would take it in turns looking shaky, only to then help each other out!
Palace undoubtedly had the best chances of the half and we were probably all relieved that Rob Green could play, as some superb goalkeeping kept the score at 0-0. As entertaining as seeing Henri Lansbury in goal would have been, the scores would never have stayed 0-0 if Green wasn’t playing.
It actually looked like the problem was up front where we were very ineffective. Maynard worked hard but was pretty isolated and he isn’t a target man so we couldn’t really knock any long balls forward. Surprisingly, both Julien Faubert and Ricardo Vaz Te disappointed slightly in advanced-wide positions. Faubert’s touch and delivery let him down like they have done before but he worked hard and I’m sure he’ll continue to be a force this season.
I think a lot of us would like to see Maynard and Baldock used up front with another, bigger striker, so Big Sam’s half time decision to replace Faubert with Cole was a welcome one and had a decent effect on the match.
We came out in the second half like a different team and it was us who were dominating. While Palace still had the threat of a counter attack, we had them very much pegged back and you sensed it was only a matter of time till we got the goal.
Yet Palace managed to get more of a foothold on the game and started threatening as they did in the first half. Despite the presence of Carlton Cole, Maynard remained ineffective and was replaced with Sam Baldock. I like Maynard but I really like Baldock and have been concerned that he might become the forgotten man.
I still consider Baldock to be the best goal scorer at the club and he nearly nicked a goal 10 seconds after his introduction! His low drive was well saved but his introduction seemed to have lifted us. A couple of minutes later and he was through again – after a fantastic flick from Cole – but Speroni again saved well.
Despite our improvements, the game carried on as it had been played out so far and we have to settle for just the one point. It’s definitely a disappointment but we’re still in the driving seat. Whether Saints win today or not, we are still in the stronger position – and in a much better position than we were a few months ago! If Saints win today and go top by a single point I won’t be too concerned. We’ll have the game in hand and I think we’ll be where we want to be come the end of the season!
Hopefully Sam will notice the difference in our play when we had Cole and Baldock alongside each other. Cole’s physical presence and skill coupled with Baldock’s intelligent running and instinctive play were there for all to see: let’s not forget about them!