Saints took another step closer to the Premier League with a comfortable 2-0 win at Crystal Palace. The result was never in doubt after Rickie Lambert had netted his second of the afternoon on 55 minutes. Saints were slightly sloppy in the early stages of the game, possibly still suffering a derby day hangover. Palace tested Nigel Adkins's men with a series of corners but couldn't find a way past the excellent Kelvin Davis. Saints were fairly slow when moving the ball about initially, but the team gradually found their feet as the half wore on and began to play with more fluidity. Palace also played some decent stuff in the first period, but missed a couple of glorious chances to find the back of the net. Kyle De Silva seriously tested Davis with a long range strike, while Chris Martin fired over from close range when he really should have scored. It was Saints who broke deadlock on 39 minutes however. Rickie Lambert powered in a header from Danny Butterfield's cross. From the stands it was unclear whether the ball had crossed the line or not, having bounced out off the post. Saints finished the half strongly, with Butterfield, Richard Chaplow and Billy Sharp combining brilliantly in a neat move that took place down the right.
Saints were in complete control for most of the second half. Jack Cork took charge of the game in midfield, as the visitors enjoyed a large chunk of possession. Lambert's second goal was one of his best. The Championship's leading goalscorer turned a defender just outside the area before firing into the bottom left hand corner. Palace had the look of a team that can't wait for the season to end, although they did occasionally test Davis. Saints played keep ball in the final 30 minutes without expending too much energy. The patient passing could have lead to more goals. Adam Lallana twisted and turned before sending a cross to the head of Jose Fonte at the far post. Fonte's effort was saved by the legs of Julian Speroni, before Guly headed straight into the arms of the Eagles stopper. Sharp had an overambitious long range effort go wide just before the final whistle.
A massive result for Saints. With West Ham dropping points, Nigel Adkins's men are now effectively just two wins away from promotion (Barring a massive swing in goal difference). Although Palace weren't the most challenging of opponents, the victory should do wonders for the teams confidence. Saints responded brilliantly to the disappointment of Saturday with a fine display of football. Friday is all set up to be an exciting contest. Saints certainly have what it takes to beat Reading and go on to win the Championship. The remaining four fixtures look tricky, but it's hard to see this team not picking up at least two more wins.
Attendance: 18,753 (5,280 Saints fans)
Davis: 8. Made a couple of world class saves when the game was still in the balance early on.
Butterfield: 8. A little bit sloppy on the ball in the early stages, but soon settled down and defended very well. Some decent passing too and a cross for the opener.
Fonte: 8. A fine display against his former club. Made all the right decisions and a threat at set pieces going forward
Hooiveld: 8. Solid defensively, with some good forward runs out of defence.
Fox: 8. Excellent range of passing and strong defensively. Only negative was he got outpaced by Zaha just before he came off, but otherwise perfect.
Chaplow: 7. Solid showing working the right flank. Kept it simple in possession.
Cork: 8. Always looking to receive the ball. Strong at both passing and tackling.
Hammond: 7. Worked hard at winning the ball back with a number of good sliding challenges.
Lallana: 7. Not as spectacular as usual, but worked hard for the team. Linked up well with Fox.
Lambert: 8. Two more goals and a constant threat
Sharp: 7. Very good movement, although didn't always make the right decision when he got the ball.
Harding: 7. Best performance for a while. Continued where Fox had left off, making a number of good runs forward. Also put in a couple of dangerous crosses.
Guly: 6. Solid showing. Got in a few efforts on goal and movement was decent.
De Ridder: Didn't have enough time to make any sort of impact.