Rickie Lambert was named Championship Player of the Year at the 2012 Football League Awards on Sunday night. Lambert beat off competition from Adam Lallana and Cardiff's Peter Whittingham. It goes without saying the best man won. Lambert's playing style and achievements have been talked about extensively on here already, so there's no need to go over too much again. Anyone who's watched Saints this season knows who important he's been to the team's success. The fact that he is six goals ahead of his nearest rival in the goalscoring charts says a lot, but there is so much more to Lambert's game than just goals. Having said all that I still think it's ridiculous that these awards are dished out when there is still a fairly large chunk of the season left to play.
Martin Hunter's development squad secured an impressive 6-0 win over Crystal Palace on Tuesday at Staplewood. Hunter's staring eleven included Dan Seaborne, who was making a long awaited return, having recovered from the serious head injuries sustained in August last year. Seaborne completed 70 minutes and put in a competent display by all accounts. The former Exeter man was in terrific form at the start of the season before his injury, so it's great to have him back. Other players lining up against the Eagles included Bartosz Bialkowski, Radhi Jaidi, James Ward-Prowse, Yago Falque (Remember him?) and Lee Barnard. The goals came from Sam Hoskins, Lloyd Isgrove, Falque, Barnard (2) and Calum Chambers.
Southampton's penultimate match of the season at Middlesbrough has been switched to 5:20pm on Saturday 21st April for the benefit of Sky Sports. It will be our 10th televised match of the campaign. If things are still up for grabs the following week, the home match with Coventry will almost certainly be on the box too.
Reading suffered a slight setback last night after a 1-1 draw with Doncaster. The Royals could have gone level on points at the top with a win. Donny took the lead through Kyle Bennett on 27 minutes, before former Saints defender Alex Pearce headed the equaliser in the second half. Reading pushed hard for a winner in the closing stages, but came unstuck thanks to a fine goalkeeping display from Carl Ikeme. It's the second time Doncaster have helped us out in recent days, having secured a draw at West Ham on Saturday. It should however serve as a warning for Saints, who will play Rovers on 24th March. Cardiff and Birmingham also blew their (very slim) chances of automatic promotion with defeats last night. It will almost certainly be a three way race between Saints, West Ham and Reading now. Nobody else looks capable of a top two finish at this stage.
Portsmouth's Jason Pearce has been linked to a shock loan move to St Marys. Pompey are in desperate need of all the money they can get, and have already offloaded Erik Huseklepp and Liam Lawrence to Birmingham and Cardiff respectively. Stephen Henderson is close to a loan move to West Ham, while Hayden Mullins is reportedly in talks with Reading. Pearce is the latest player to be linked with a move away. I'm not convinced he would improve our squad in any way however. He looked poor against us last season when playing for Bournemouth, and was at fault for one of the goals in the 3-1 win at Dean Court. On the other hand, a deal for Pearce would seriously annoy our friends down the road, and weaken them even further. He's more likely to join Ipswich, who were chasing him in January. A move to Saints would be in nobody's best interest.
The U18's returned to winning ways last Saturday with a 3-0 beating of Watford. The goals came from Sam McQueen, Dan Bowman and Jake Sinclair. Jason Dodd's team now sit in 3rd place in the Academy League Group A, 4 points behind leaders Arsenal. It's difficult to gauge which teams are actually the strongest, with most constantly rotating to make sure everyone gets a chance. Saints have often dropped points when leading stars like James Ward-Prowse and Luke Shaw have been missing, but the same can be said of other teams too. It goes without saying player development is far more important than results.