03/03/2012: Leeds 0-1 Saints

Saints maintained their position at the top of the Championship table following a smash-and-grab win at Leeds. Nigel Adkins's men were second best for most of the contest, but came away with all three points thanks to a mixture of awful Leeds finishing and goalkeeping heroics from Kelvin Davis. The hosts came flying out the traps in the early stages, and had good early chances to break the deadlock. Adam Clayton had the first major opportunity, when his low drive was well saved by Davis. Saints were forced to play a much more direct game than usual. For all the Leeds pressure it was the visitors who drew first blood. Jack Cork's deep cross was headed down by Tadanari Lee, setting up Rickie Lambert's brilliant volley, which flew past Andy Lonergan into the back of the net. Saints fans would have hoped that goal would have acted as a turning point, but the game continued in the same vein, with Leeds steaming forward with great regularity. The away side sat back and invited pressure, getting men behind the ball and attempting to break away on the counter. Adkins switched Richard Chaplow to a more defensive role on the left hand side, with Jason Puncheon moving to the middle, and Cork to the right. Leeds were still incredibly dangerous in front of goal however. On 22 minutes Ross McCormak fired narrowly wide of the post. Lucian Becchio later sneaked in at the near post, only to have his effort saved by Davis. Robert Snodgrass was also inches away with his curled shot. Saints would somehow hold on until the break.

Adkins brought on Guly and Dean Hammond for the second half, and although the pair performed slightly better than the men they replaced, Saints were still under the cosh for the most part. Leeds pushed hard for an equaliser and came agonisingly close on 59 minutes, only to be denied by a miraculous save from Davis, who somehow hooked the ball away with Becchio just a few yards from goal. After that Davis tipped Danny Webber's point blank effort over the bar. Webber was twice foiled again by the Southampton number one later in the match. Saints occasionally looked threatening going forward, but could only muster up a few long range shots. Leeds continued to probe, and twice hit the bar in a late goalmouth scramble. Richard Chaplow came close to wrapping things up in stoppage time, but fired wide after being fed by Lambert. In the end Saints held out for a vital three points.

Not the best of performances by any means, but a very important win nonetheless. Saints rode their luck for much of the game, and were extremely fortune not to have at least drawn. The best sides often grind out results without playing well however (Or so the cliché goes). Saints will need to improve on that performance in future matches, but that doesn't take away any of the brilliance of this result. A special mention must be given to Kelvin Davis, who becomes the first ever player to receive a perfect 10/10 rating on TheSaintsHub. So often this season he's been a virtual spectator with the ball usually at the other end of the pitch, but when he is called upon he rarely lets the team down. He was absolutely heroic at Elland Road, making a string of superb saves. This result may go down as one of the most important come the end of the season, and Davis is the man who deserves most of the praise.

Attendance: 20,901

Match Ratings:

Davis: 10. A perfect display. Made a number of world class saves that he had no right to make.

Richardson: 7. Did very well going forward, although was occasionally caught out at the other end.

Fonte: 7. Made some absolutely vital clearances and well timed challenges.

Hooiveld: 8. Threw his body in front of everything.

Fox: 5. Passing was largely disappointing, and also suspect defensively

Chaplow: 7. Made a number of well timed challenges throughout the game.

Cork: 6. Didn't see much of the ball in the first half, but did put in the cross that led to the goal. Never stopped running down the right flank in the second period.

Schneiderlin: 7. A bit of a mixed bag. Gave away a few needless freekicks, and was beaten by his man on a few occasions, but did well on the ball.

Puncheon: 5. Completely ineffective first half performance.

Lambert: 8. Another goal and some great all round play.

Lee: 6. Very bright early on, but faded after assisting Lambert for the goal. Understandably tired having just returned from a midweek International trip to Japan.

Substitutes:

Guly: 6. Spent most of the second half defending, and made some absolutely vital tackles and clearances.

Hammond: 6. Made a few good bursting runs forward.

Harding: 6. Much more solid defensively than Fox had been.