14/01/2012: Nottingham Forest 0-3 Saints

Saints ended their long wait for an away win in the league, with a comprehensive thumping of Nottingham Forest. Nigel Adkins’s side were the better team throughout, but really asserted their dominance after the home side went down to 10 men. Saints produced some decent triangular passing in wide areas early on, although it took a while before they really opened up their opponents. Dean Hammond had the first major chance, with a long range effort that was parried by Lee Camp. Forest then had a great opportunity of their own, when Marcus Tudgay got in behind the defence, but his lob was dealt with comfortably by Kelvin Davis. The home side squandered more decent chances later in the half. Jos Hooiveld brilliantly blocked Marlon Harewood’s shot inside the penalty area, while Joel Lynch headed over from a corner. It was Saints who broke the deadlock however, when Jack Cork broke free down the right wing, before cutting the ball back inside the penalty area to David Connolly. The former Irish international had his shot saved, but Guly Do Prado was there to smash in the rebound. Just before the break Lewis McGugan had a low free kick well saved by Davis.

Early into the second half referee Eddie Ilderton made a decision that would effectively end any hope of a comeback for Forest. Luke Chambers was deservedly red carded after catching David Connolly with a flailing arm. Saints made their one man advantage count, with complete domination of possession from that point on. The midfield four of Cork, Schneiderlin, Hammond and Lallana moved the ball about very well. Guly had a glorious opportunity to double the visitors lead, but he sliced his shot into the stands. The Brazilian then broke down with an injury, and was visibly struggling until he was replaced by Lee Holmes. Saints really piled on the pressure, and eventually doubled their advantage on 65 minutes. Connolly completed a fine passing move, which saw the ball switch from the left to the right of the pitch. Dan Harding put in a in-swinging cross, which was flicked on by Morgan Schneiderlin, before Connolly arrived to tuck the ball away. Saints never let their guard down throughout the second half, and continued to push for more goals. Schneiderlin made it 3-0 with a brilliant low drive from 35 yards out. Saints could have extended their lead even further, with Lee Holmes, Aaron Martin and Danny Fox missing good opportunities. In the end, they had to settle for 3-0, but nobody could have failed to be impressed with the effort put forward by the team.

A tremendously pleasing day for all connected with Southampton FC. Saints not only stopped the rot with a rare away win, but also put on a great display of football, reminiscent of early season performances. Nigel Adkins had to do without key players like Frazer Richardson, Jose Fonte and Rickie Lambert, with the likes of David Connolly and Guly Do Prado stepping up to the plate in their absence. Connolly was particularly impressive. It’s no coincidence Saints have looked much better since he returned to the side. The 34 year old improves everyone around him, with intelligent movement and skill. He linked up brilliantly with Adam Lallana, who was much improved today. Jack Cork also made a big difference in his new role on the right hand side of midfield. He had a big influence on the proceedings with his inventive skill and creativity. At the other end Saints defended heroically, with Kelvin Davis and Jos Hooiveld putting their bodies in the line of danger. The only disappointment was that we didn’t score more and improve our goal difference.

Attendance: 20,221 (2,294 Saints fans)

Match Ratings:

Davis: 7. Made some crucial saves when the game was still in the balance. Had nothing to do in the second half

Harding: 7. Delivery below par early on, but improved considerably as the game went on with some good passing in the second half. Made the second goal.

Martin: 7. Very solid, some great defensive clearances in the first half. Should have had another goal.

Hooiveld: 8. Always in the right place at the right time. Made one absolutely crucial block

Fox: 8. Made a number of great forward runs, which created plenty of openings.

Cork: 8. Made a big difference on the right hand side. Passes were usually threatening.

Hammond: 8. Continues his fine recent form. Driving force from midfield yet again.

Schneiderlin: 8. Passing excellent as you would expect. A fine goal too, which you wouldn’t expect.

Lallana: 8. Best display in months. Linked up well Connolly, and opened up a lot of space with his skill

Connolly: 8. As mentioned above, a great all round display. Passing and movement first class, and a goal to top it all off.

Guly: 7. Very good first half showing, which included a goal. Picked up an injury early into the second half and struggled to keep up with play as a result until he was subbed off.

Substitutes:

Holmes: 7. Direct running caused Forest some problems.

Butterfield: 6. Looked steady

Reeves: Some good touches in the final stages