After defeating champions Brighton on Saturday, Southampton’s League One promotion campaign was bolstered to new levels. Having leapfrogged Huddersfield, it was crucial for the Saints to continue their promotion charge with another win in the Easter Monday round of matches.
In post-match interview, Brighton manager Gus Poyet said that he believed that Saints played football similar to that of the lowly Dagenham, insinuating that there was a heavy reliance on the long ball game. Eager to disprove Poyet, the Saints tackled mid-table Hartlepool, while third placed Huddersfield took on the “Saints-esque” Dagenham and Redbridge.
Saints gaffer Nigel Adkins bought in six new faces in order to freshen up the side, recalling the likes of Adam Lallana and Dan Harding. The game began in front of the bumper 24,000 crowd at St Mary’s, with Saints having the best of the action. This early pressure told and it looked like Saints had taken the lead early on, when Brazilian Guly do Prado headed home from an Adam Lallana cross, only to be denied by the offside flag.
With Lallana, Guly and striker Rickie Lambert all forcing Hartlepool stopper Scott Flinders to make some good saves to keep his side in the game. This kept the score at nil-nil untill half time.
The second half began in the same style as the first. After another bright start, the promotion chasers were awarded a penalty after Rickie Lambert was bought down by Pools defender Sam Collins. Rickie Lambert tucked home the penalty with his usual precision to take his league tally to nineteen goals.
With depleted numbers, Hartlepool enjoyed their best period of football, forcing a great save from Kelvin Davis in the Southampton goal. The Saints then took control of the game, retaining possession. This control of the game lead to Adam Lallana being fouled on the edge of the area. The subsequent free kick was swung to the back post by Lambert and was neatly headed home by Jose Fonte from close range to double the home sides advantage.
The game comfortably petered out, as Adkins swapped some of his most influential players to keep the squad rotated. The game ended two-nil and took the home side three points closer to promotion. Those points were crucial seeing as promotion rivals Huddersfield beat Dagenham and Redbridge two-one.
However, the biggest loser of the day was Gus Poyet, who was proven wrong by the style of Saints play. His comparison of Southampton and the Daggers, was not only one hundred percent wrong, it was proven in style as Southampton played dominant passing football that has seen them crush teams such as Huddersfield, Oldham and Peterborough, the sort of football that has seen them accumulate a goal difference of +41 this season.
Eat your words Poyet.