17/03/2012: Millwall 2-3 Saints

Saints took another important step in their bid for promotion, coming from behind to beat Millwall 3-2 at The Den. It was a complete reversal of the scoring sequence from the previous meeting between the two sides. The early stages of the game were extremely scrappy, with Millwall allowing Saints little space in the middle of the park. Saints were poor in possession, particularly in defence. Rickie Lambert sparked the game into life on 10 minutes when he hit the bar from just outside the area. That was a sign of things to come, with Saints taking the lead 6 minutes later. Morgan Schneiderlin's terrific run was picked out by Danny Fox. The Frenchman then cut inside, drawing out Lions keeper Maik Taylor, before cutting the ball back to Rickie Lambert, who fired in off the bar. Rather than taking control of the game, Saints reverted back the disjointed play that had been on show in the opening moments of the contest. Millwall equalised on 23 minutes when Andy Keogh cut inside Jos Hooiveld, before firing past Kelvin Davis at the near post. The ball bounced back off the post on to the unfortunate Jose Fonte for an own goal. Five minutes later Millwall had the lead. Saints failed to clear a corner that was headed across the box a number of times, before Paul Robinson blasted in from the edge of the area. Nigel Adkins's men had a few long range efforts before the break, but the general play was still below par.

Steve De Ridder was brought on for Richard Chaplow for the second half, and the Belgian winger made an immediate impression, creating a few opportunities for himself with some mazy runs down the right. Saints were much better at keeping possession, and had the ball in the Millwall half for extended periods. Billy Sharp was then introduced to the proceedings, with Guly Do Prado dropping back into midfield. Most of the chances fell to the away team, although The Lions were still a threat on the break. Davis made a crucial save from Hamer Bouazza, who was clear through on goal. At the other end Saints were pushing hard for an equaliser, with Millwall proving tough to break down. The visitors finally got an opportunity on 85 minutes when Lambert was tripped in the penalty area. The Championship Player of the Season made no mistake from the resulting spot kick. Three minutes later Saints were rewarded another penalty when Alan Dunne stupidly punched the ball over the bar. Lambert put the ball in the same corner for yet another hatrick. Saints saw out the remaining few minutes fairly comfortably.

Overall a very disappointing display from Southampton. Most players were well below their best against a Millwall side that made things very difficult. In the end that's not really important though. The only thing that matters at this stage of the season is results. The win was all the more crucial with relentless Reading picking up yet another three points. It's the second away game in the row that Saints have had to dig deep in order to see out the victory. Nigel Adkins was able to change the game by bringing on great options from the bench. The squad will be vitally important in the coming weeks with so many games coming up in such a short period of time. Don't be surprised if Adkins makes changes for Tuesday night's game at Hull. The Tigers are 11 unbeaten in the Championship. The smart money would be on the draw.

Attendance: 12,144 (2,395 Saints fans)

Match Ratings:

Davis: 6. Not quite to the level of previous weeks but did make one particularly superb save with the score at 2-1.

Richardson: 6. A few errors here and there but generally pretty good. Some excellent long balls.

Fonte: 6. Unlucky with the own goal, but slightly lax in possession too. Much improved after the break. Did well bringing the ball out of defence.

Hooiveld: 5. A rare off day. Distribution largely disappointing, and slightly suspect defensively.

Fox: 6. Passing generally pretty poor, but he did have a role in the opener.

Chaplow: 5. Worked hard up and down the right, but was largely wasteful in possession.

Hammond: 5 Couldn't really get to grips with the ball.

Schneiderlin: 6. Made some great interceptions early on, but was unusually sloppy later in the game, and didn't have as much influence on the game as usual.

Lallana: 6. Quiet for large periods, but did make a few dangerous dribbling runs.

Guly: 7. Possibly the best passer of the ball on the pitch. Lead the line well, chasing from the front before switching to a deeper role.

Lambert: 8. Yet another hatrick, plus some great hold up work

Substitutes:

De Ridder: 6. Made a big impact in the early stages of the second half, creating goalscoring opportunities, although faded slightly as the game wore on.

Sharp: 6. Some decent link up play with Lambert

Cork: Helped keep possession in the final few minutes.