Writer: Daniel Bailey
Date:Friday April 3 2009
St Mary's Stadium
Saturday 4th April 2009
With all the talk about administration this week, you could be forgiven for forgetting that Southampton actually have a game to play tomorrow.
The turmoil off the pitch will finally take second place to the football, as bottom club Charlton Athletic visit St Mary's Stadium, with both teams in desperate need of a win.
Recently, Addicks coach Mark Kinsella admitted that Charlton were preparing for League One football next season, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the visitors will role over and give the three points to the Saints.
Although Championship survival is looking increasingly unlikely for Charlton, their pride is very much at stake, and they will want to put in a good performance for their travelling fans.
Phil Parkinson's side will have the freedom to play their own game with no pressure, and in the past, teams in that situation have often raised their game to pick up some unexpected points.
Southampton, on the other hand, will be keen to pick up maximum points as they still have a chance of maintaining their Championship status for another year.
Should Mark Wotte's side get the three points tomorrow, there is a strong possibility that the south coast club will move out of the bottom three for the first time this year.
For how long though, remains to be seen. The Football League will meet on Tuesday to decide whether a points penalty should be imposed on Southampton. If the Saints are deducted 10 points, then that would put them straight back into the relegation zone, just two points in front of tomorrow's visitors, with League One football almost a certainty.
All this talk of 'next season' is based upon the assumption that a buyer for the club is found, but for now, it is down to the club's players to get on with their jobs and get some points on the board.
Saints boss Mark Wotte talks about the club's current situation . . .
"As far as I am concerned it is business as usual. We have been working very hard to prepare ourselves for the last seven games of the season and we are doing everything that we can in order to stay in the Championship.
"I knew from day one that the financial situation at the football club was not a good one, but I can't control any of that. I am only in charge of the football business and we've done ok for the last couple of months on that front.
"We're still battling to stay in the Championship, so for me nothing has changed. I remain working closely with my players on a daily basis to prepare them to do the best job possible for Southampton Football Club."
Wotte on tomorrow's opponents, Charlton Athletic . . .
"Charlton are not a bad team, they only lost 2-1 at Wolves recently. The performances have been have been ok but we need to make sure that when they come to St Mary's that we beat them."
Southampton will be without midfielder Simon Gillett, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season after tearing cartilage in his knee.
Lee Holmes is back in contention after coming through two reserve outings, and the winger will be looking to make a return to action after two months on the sidelines.
Striker David McGoldrick (knee) and midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin (flu) are both hoping to be fit, and with the exception of long-term absentees Wayne Thomas and Michael Svensson, Mark Wotte has a fully fit squad to choose from.
The former Jamaican international will be looking to have a big impact against one of his former clubs. The industrious forward has been in impressive form of late, and Euell will be keen to continue his fine form as Charlton visit St Mary's.
Charlton midfielder Darren Ambrose faces a fitness test after picking up a thigh injury two weeks ago.
Jonjo Shelvey, Therry Racon and Matthew Spring will contest the central-midfield roles, with Zheng Zhi likely to support lone striker Tresor Kandol.
The likeable forward has been attracting Premiership clubs in recent times, and with Charlton all but consigned to League One football next season, Addicks boss Phil Parkinson has already admitted that the Chinese international will leave the club during the summer.
Saints were held to a 1-1 draw at The Valley last April as Nigel Pearson's side claimed a valuable point away from home, which could have been more had Andy Gray not cancelled out a bizarre own goal from defender Paddy McCarthy which put Saints in front after 10 minutes.
The overall record between the two sides in league meetings shows Saints to have had the greater success with 23 wins to Charlton's 16, in the 53 matches played to-date.
This was a regular fixture in the Premiership at the turn of the Century. One notable 2003/04 fixture at St Mary's where Michael Svensson put Saints ahead and two further goals from Brett Ormerod either side of Scott Parker's double for The Addicks saw Gordon Strachan's side take an eventful 3-2 win.
Another game worth mentioning from that era is Charlton's 2-1 success over Saints at The Valley in the same season when Jason Euell put the hosts in front before Carlton Cole extended the lead to leave David Prutton's reply as a mere consolation for Paul Sturrock's team.
Saints will however, want to forget about the first meeting between the two in the Premiership when The Addicks romped to a 5-0 victory in South East London. Just past the hour mark, a 2-0 deficit was made worse when goalkeeper Paul Jones was sent off after bringing down striker Clive Mendonca in the penalty area. With three substitutions already made by boss Dave Jones, debutant David Howells went between the posts but he could do nothing about Mendonca's spot kick or two further efforts from the striker who went on to complete a hat-trick.
Charlton's first trip to St Mary's ended in a 1-0 defeat for the visitors as Marian Pahars sealed a 1-0 win in November 2001.
Mr Jon Moss from West Yorkshire takes charge of Saturday's game.
He officiated Southampton's match at relegation bound Scunthorpe United last season where Saints left it late to take a share of the points as Gregory Vignal struck a late penalty to cancel out Andy Crosby's 41st minute opener.
Moss also dismissed The Iron's midfielder, Matt Sparrow in the second half of that game for an apparent stamp on Saints defender Wayne Thomas.
For this game Mr Moss will be assisted by Mr S Phipps and Mr E Smith. The fourth official is Mr T McCoy.
Tomorrow promises to be an emotional day for everyone involved with Southampton Football Club.
With Charlton looking to next season in League One, and with Saints fans turning out in force to show potential investors that the club is worth keeping alive, I'm backing Mark Wotte's side to completely overwhelm the visitors.
Saints to win 3-1 thanks to a brace from Polish international Marek Saganowkski, with Jason Euell sealing the win with a goal against his former club.
Tuesday 7th April - Watford (A)
Friday 10th April - Wolves (A)
Monday 13th April - Crystal Palace (H)
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