01/02/2014: Fulham 0-3 Saints

Saints got back to winning ways on the road with a storming display at Craven Cottage. Fulham may have just about edged an ugly first-half, but there was only one team in it during the second 45. Saints are now just two points behind 8th place Newcastle, and have an 8 point lead over 10th place Aston Villa.

The game got off to a reasonably lively start, with both sides taking it in turns to attack. Fulham's Dan Burn headed over from a corner on 8, in what was the first major chance. Saints used a patient approach, and nearly got lucky when a sliced clearance almost led to a comedy own-goal. Saints slowed the tempo and momentarily took control of the game, before reverting to a scrappy midfield battle.

Saints utilised the flanks fairly well, with Calum Chambers dragging a shot wide on 20. Luke Shaw and Jay Rodriguez then put together a tremendous move down the left, but nobody was there to get on the end of the latter's cross. Fulham put Saints under pressure during the final 20 minutes or so, but a combination of poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping meant they couldn't quite find the breakthrough. Boruc made at least three stunning saves, including a double from Darren Bent on 35. The first came from an acrobatic volley, the second from an angled drive. The ball spent far too long in the air for Saints' liking during the last 10 minutes, as the first half fizzled out.

Mauricio Pochettino replaced Victor Wanyama with Jack Cork at half-time, and Saints immediately improved as a result. The visitors enjoyed a greater degree of control in the centre of the park, and looked a lot more fluid in the final third. On 49 minutes Shaw's low cross was dummied by Rickie Lambert on the edge of the box for Rodriguez, who shot just wide. A few moments later Morgan Schneiderlin's overhead kick flew just above the bar.

Saints were relentlessly dominant going forward in the second-half. Pochettino's men pressed the ball a lot better and exploited space on the counter. Maarten Stekelenburg saved Adam Lallana's long range effort on 58. Lambert would have been in for an easy chance on 62 had he not slipped over. It felt as if it was only a matter of time by this point. Saints were deservedly ahead on 64, when Lallana fired in from a tight angle on the left, following a Lambert pass.

Fulham offered practically no response to the goal, with Saints spending most of the next half-hour pouring forward in search of more. Schneiderlin had a header cleared away from a corner on 66. Another swift counter saw Rodriguez shoot wide from Shaw's low cross. Saints made it 2-0 on 70. Sub Nathaniel Clyne played a good one-two with Steven Davis before driving into the box. The ball was then cut-back to Lambert, who sent the keeper the wrong way. Rodriguez wrapped it up five minutes later. Lambert's long ball found the former Burnley man on the left-flank. Rodriguez cut inside before curling a beautiful effort into the top corner. Saints toyed with their opponents during the final 15 minutes. Davis shot wide in stoppage time, but in the end Fulham were spared the embarrassment of a heavier defeat.

Saints could have hardly hoped for a better second-half. The chemistry between the front three of Lallana, Rodriguez and Lambert was a joy to watch. All three looked completely worthy of the international recognition they have received recently. Further back Schneiderlin was given free reign of the midfield alongside the impressive Davis. Cork obviously made a big difference. In hindsight it was a mistake to go with Victor Wanyama from the start, especially given how well Cork has been playing recently. The two are vastly different players, but both possess great defensive skills. Wanyama has and will continue to be extremely useful in certain games, but right now it's difficult to come up with a valid reason to leave Cork out of the side. The former Chelsea man is out of contract in approximately 17 months. If the new regime is serious about wanting to push on, then sorting a new deal for Cork should be right at the top of their priority list.

Attendance: 25,700

Match Ratings:

Boruc: 8. First-half saves kept Saints in the game

Chambers: 6. Started the game well, contributing at both ends of the pitch. Cleary felt the effects of a knock which eventually forced him off

Fonte: 7. Another solid defensive showing. Had it easy in the second half

Yoshida: 7. Read the game well. Timing very good as usual

Shaw: 9. What more can you say about the kid? Fulham just couldn't cope with his rapid bursts of pace. Crossing very good too

Wanyama: 5. Started ok, but looked a bit rusty for the most part. Will probably take a couple more games to get up to speed

Schneiderlin: 8. Has really stepped it up recently. A giant in the midfield, helping at both ends of the pitch

Davis: 7. Another solid outing. Kept the ball moving quickly

Lallana: 8. Made it all look so effortless. Fulham could do little to prevent him from gliding through their defence over and over again

Rodriguez: 8. A constant threat around the penalty area. Took his goal superbly

Lambert: 8. Took a while to get going, but made a vital contribution in the 2nd half, with a goal and two assists


Cork: 7. Made a big difference in the 2nd half, giving Saints a greater degree of control

Clyne: 7. A constant source of trouble for Fulham's left back

Gallagher : Just caught out by Fulham's offside trap at the end of the game, otherwise would have been through on goal