So it was only a point, but it felt like a win. The merest mention of a betting tip from me and I should have known Charlton Athletic would throw a spanner in the works. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.
For those who made the effort and there were more than I anticipated, although perhaps nothing near the 16,550 officially quoted, it was an improvement over the recent rubbish. There was plenty of effort and a fair bit of focus although the game was littered with errors, surprisingly from both sides even if most came from the side in red. Confidence is an amazing thing in professional football and I believe it has a lot to answer for with us at the moment. If we had scored first tonight I believe we may well have gone on to win this game.
As it was, a draw was a fair result and the Saints fans who were silenced towards the end can have few complaints. I was expecting more from them and Nigel Adkins may well have been over-cautious.
Chris Powell made yet more changes and it was good to see Elliot back in goal. Freddie Bessone also made a welcome return at left-back and Chris Solly was in at right. Dailly and Llera continued in the middle. The midfield was Semedo, Racon, Wagstaff and Parrett with Nouble and BWP up front.
Perhaps our expectations are so low, anything better than abysmal looks like progress but it felt much better in the first half despite any clear cut Charlton chances and yet plenty of basic mistakes. It may have helped that Southampton looked content to play out the first half and settle in. Their fans were also noisy and surprisingly respectful in view of recent history and our current predicament.
Into the second-half then and Southampton began to exert more control as they grew in confidence and began to commit men forward. They are a tall side and only got bigger with each substitution. Our back four did very well to cope with the aerial bombardment and it's ironic that the beast Jaidi should drill home the opener after 64 minutes from a corner when we were preparing for another high ball. It was a carbon copy of the goal we conceded against Tranmere.
At that point Southampton should have gone for the jugular but instead tried to hold their lead. Dispirited though we have been for weeks, our side saw the signs and began to get at Southampton. Things started to click, especially down the flanks and the game moved back towards us. It was from a deeply floated free-kick that Miguel Llera got a toe to ball that dropped into the box and lashed a touch onto the underside of the bar. It looked in but somehow came down on the line and out. Llera was obviously disappointed but he pursued Andy D'Urso for 30 yards further than he should have to get his name taken. To make matters worse, Bradley Wright-Phillips did something equally stupid when firing aimlessly wide after a clear whistle for offside. D'Urso was looking directly at Wright-Phillips and I believe he was looking for a sign of apology. A raised hand would probably have been enough but Wright-Phillips merely walked back staring so D'Urso reached for the book. Silly boy.
Charlton continued to make the play and the Saints fans were strangely subdued and I think, expecting a possible equaliser. When it came, it was worthy of drawing the match. Nathan Eccleston, on for the diving Wagstaff, made progress from the right and played a ball into Dean Parrett with his back to goal. With the defence in a line behind him, Parrett stubbed the pass up and over his head and it fell behind the line for the advancing Wright-Phillips to pounce and fire past Kevin Davis. The relief was evident around three sides of the ground as if the significance of the goal was worth more than simply parity in the match. It caused a buzz in the Charlton stands and roars for more in the final minutes. For once we were applauded off the field.
Bournemouth and Rochdale away will be tough but there were signs tonight that the players may finally be waking to our threat of relegation. Not before time. There might be a couple of home wins to come before we forget this miserable season.