SOUTHAMPTON, England (Reuters) - Southampton fans are a restive bunch these days, and the mood at St Mary’s was lifted little by a controlling but ultimately impotent performance at home against Brighton on Wednesday.
That an equaliser salvaged a 1-1 Premier League draw, after conceding an early penalty, was scant consolation for fans furious that the club is sitting in the relegation zone despite having pocketed some 75 million pounds ($107 million) for the sale of Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool.
Southampton failed to buy a replacement defender, and their protracted courting of Spartak Moscow winger Quincy Promes fizzled out earlier on Wednesday as the transfer window closed.
Sources say the clubs had finally agreed a fee - believed to be more than 25 million pounds - but that the deal had been left too late, leaving the Russians unable to replace the Dutchman.
That left Saints manager Mauricio Pellegrino unable to bolster his struggling side further following the 19 million- pound record signing of Monaco striker Guido Carrillo last week.
Argentine Carrillo gave a good account of himself up front once he was introduced in the 46th minute for Dusan Tadic, but how Pellegrino missed an incisive striker in the Promes mould as they laboured up front, looking to cancel out Glenn Murray’s 14th-minute penalty.
“After the goal we controlled the game completely, but we could not play quick enough to break their defence,” Pellegrino told reporters. “Little by little they would drop, and it got harder and harder for us to find space.”
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg hit the bar with a fortunate charged down deflection before Pellegrino really went on the attack after the break, introducing Carrillo and tricky midfielder Sofiane Boufal.
But it took a defender, Jack Stephens, to hit their 64th- minute equaliser with his second goal in two games, nudging the ball home from James Ward-Prowse’s mis-hit free kick.
Saints threw Italian international striker Manolo Gabbiadini on with 10 minutes to go, but despite holding much of the possession - and repeatedly sweeping the ball from side to side of the St Mary’s pitch - the hosts lacked the penetration needed for a winner.
“Overall, we showed enough of a reaction to eventually get back level but we couldn’t find a touch of quality in the final third to get a winner,” skipper Steven Davis said.
Southampton remained a point behind Brighton in the danger zone, and face bottom club West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
“We knew how important a result would have been here against a team that’s near us in the table,” Davis said. “We simply haven’t won enough games; I believe there is a lot of quality in this dressing-room and we shouldn’t be in this position. It’s up to us to pull ourselves out of it.
“We’ve shown some signs of progression but we need start performing for a full 90 minutes and turn one point into three.”
Editing by Ed Osmond