It's been one hell of a year for Southampton Football Club. On December 31st 2010 Saints were sat in 5th place in League 1. Fast forward 365 days and we are currently top of the Championship, in a great position to secure automatic promotion back to the Premiership. Things couldn't have gone much better. After years of failure, false dawns and disappointment, Nigel Adkins has produced a team that not only plays great football, but is also consistent and always rises to the big occasions. Thanks for reading.
Best moment: Winning promotion to the Championship
League 1 seems a long way away now, but if it wasn't for our fine run of form at the end of last season, the past five months might not have been possible. Saints undoubtedly had a squad far superior to their divisional rivals, but that still didn't make their consistency any less impressive. Saints were pushed all the way by Huddersfield, but 13 wins from the final 15 ensured promotion was secured.
Worst moment: Joel Ward's 84th minute equaliser at Fratton Park
Nearly seven years after the last league meeting between the two sides, Saints travelled to Fratton Park on December 18th with great hope of avenging their last two derby day defeats. After months of build up and excitement it looked as though they were heading for a famous win when Rickie Lambert headed in Danny Fox's free kick. Unlike the previous two Fratton encounters, Saints were 100% committed and very well organised. Everything looked to be going according to plan, until one little defensive error gave Pompey an undeserved point. It was a huge anti-climax. Fans can take comfort from the fact that our club is in much better shape, but it would have been nice if we could have ended the 25 year wait for a win at their place.
Best goal: Alex Chamberlain vs. Walsall.
Returning from a long injury lay off; Alex Chamberlain replaced Guly Do Prado in the second half of the promotion party on the final day of the season. The 17 year old wonderkid made an immediate impact, smashing the ball against the post within moments of coming on. Chamberlain was determined to mark what would be his final competitive Saints appearance with a goal however. On 68 minutes he picked up the ball on the right, approximately 30 yards from goal, and proceeded to run at the full back before cutting inside on the edge of the area, curling a shot into the corner of the net. Chamberlain has of course since made the big money move to Arsenal, where he has already impressed with a goal in the Champions League.
Best individual performance: Jack Cork vs. Ipswich
This was a tough one to call. Adam Lallana's display at Barnsley in August was a joy to behold, while Rickie Lambert's hatricks against Nottingham Forest and Brighton were equally impressive. For me though, the best individual performance in a single match came from Jack Cork on August 16th at Ipswich. The former Burnley man was at the heart of everything good about Southampton's 5-2 win, pulling the strings in midfield. He saw so much of the ball, and yet never gave it away once. It was a truly superb showing, from a player who is still young enough to improve even further.
Best home match: Middlesbrough 29th October
It could have been any number of games, with so many fantastic moments to choose from. The 3-2 comeback win over MK Dons was a turning point last season, and helped us on our way to promotion. The final day beating of Walsall and the subsequent celebrations were great fun, and the 3-0 thumping of Brighton in November was particularly sweet. For me though it has to be our clash with promotion chasing rivals Middlesbrough. It looked to be a potentially tricky fixture beforehand- against a Boro side who had the best away record in the division. Saints made light work of their opponents however, securing a 3-0 win. In truth it could have been more. Nigel Adkins's men played some sparkling football that wouldn't have looked out of place in the Premier League. Everyone involved played to their absolute maximum, in what was a great team effort.
Best away match: Brighton 23rd April
With fellow League 1 promotion hopefuls Huddersfield picking up three points at MK Dons the previous day to go second, the pressure was well and truly on Saints to pick up something at the Withdean. It wouldn't be easy though- Brighton had recently been crowned champions, and were unbeaten on their own patch all season. Things didn't look to be going according to plan when Radhi Jaidi's poor back-pass lead to a Brighton goal just before half time. Saints battered their opponents in the second half with chance after chance, but when they were all squandered, it looked like it wasn't going to be our day. That was until the 84th minute when David Connolly hit the equaliser to make it 1-1. Most would have taken a draw pre-match, and a point would still leave us in a great position. Nobody could have dreamt what was to happen next however. Kelvin Davis pumped a long free kick into the Brighton area, straight on to the head on Jose Fonte. The Portuguese defender nodded the ball over the head of the keeper and into the back of the net. Cue pandemonium in the stand and a mini-pitch invasion. It was at that moment most Saints fans finally believed we were destined to go up.
I should also give a mention to Oldham away on January 11th. Only 450 odd Saints fans turned up on a cold Tuesday night at Boundary Park, but it was still a great atmosphere. The visitors put on a superb performance, against a side that had been above us in the table for much of the season prior to this fixture. That all changed after Saints tore through their opponents with ease. It was 6-0 in the end, with 6 different goal-scorers. It's fair to say none of the 3767 fans in attendance are likely to forget that night in a hurry.