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Adkins takes positives as Saints make latest point

THE fact that the referee was the most noteworthy feature of the 1-1 stalemate between Southampton and Norwich may offer some indication of its quality.

Nigel Adkins and Chris Hughton both opted for safety, but unless their sides can show more poise and guile in the final third, safety may not be what they end up with. Two fortuitous goals from set-pieces, one from Rickie Lambert and one from Robert Snodgrass, were the only real incidents of note. All else evaporated into the cold night.

Mark Clattenburg could scarcely have picked a less eventful game for his refereeing comeback. It was a mottled, marbled match, characterised by raking clearances and those high, aimless crosses that are simultaneously so hopeful and so hopeless. On balance, Southampton had marginally the better of things, but with the more expensively assembled squad and home advantage, they would have expected more.

Still, this was another cobblestone laid on Southampton's road to recovery, an example of their newly discovered solidity at the back. "That's eight points in four games, so we'll take the positives," Adkins said. "And we could have won all four. The goal on half-time's gone and changed the complexion of the game."

It was Lambert who scored after a tepid first half-hour. Norwich howled indignantly, fancying they saw Lambert's hand touch the ball but Clattenburg refused their appeals.

"There were a lot of bodies around the ball, but the players are all adamant it was handball," Hughton said. "But it was a difficult one."

Just as Southampton sought to consolidate their advantage with a 15-minute break , they lapsed for a fateful second and conceded.

A Snodgrass free-kick was deflected off Jason Puncheon and goalkeeper Paolo Gazzaniga let the ball scuttle underneath his body.

Wes Hoolahan missed a late chance to win it for Norwich. It rather summed up the night.