Saints took another step closer to survival with a comfortable 2-0 win over Reading. Mauricio Pochettino's men were slightly below their best in the first half, but weren't punished by a poor Reading outfit. Saints stepped it up in the second period and looked completely comfortable throughout.
The pre-match hype was dominated by Nigel Adkins, who took charge of his first home game against his former employers. Adkins received a warm welcome from the travelling fans at the Madjeski Stadium before kick-off. Saints supporters sung his name about 12 minutes in, before switching their focus to the current setup, with chants for Pochettino and Nicola Cortese. It was Adkins' side who started the brighter. Saints tried to play out from the back, but found it difficult initially with Reading closing down well. The Royals had a great chance to open the scoring when Sean Morrison headed just wide from a free-kick. Reading attempted to exploit Saints' high-line by playing balls over the top, but the end product from the home side was poor. Adam Le Fondre missed a glorious chance to open the scoring when Saints gifted the striker the opportunity by failing to clear the ball away. Reading also had a shout for a penalty when Jos Hooiveld challenged Hal Robson-Kanu.
Saints did come into it a bit more after the first quarter. Pochettino's men attempted to play on the break, sending the ball out wide and over the top of the Reading back line. The home side initially did well to stifle Saints' game. They enjoyed another strong spell around the half-hour mark. Artur Boruc was forced into making a fine stop when Adrian Mariappa planted a powerful down into the corner. Saints grew in confidence as the half wore on. On 33 minutes Gaston Ramirez headed wide. Moments later Saints were ahead. Ramirez started the move, playing the ball into Rodriguez. Lambert then received a pass, before chipping the ball over the top of the defence for Rodriguez, who beat Royals keeper Adam Federici to the punch to find the back of the net. Saints were massively boosted by that goal. Rodriguez came very close to doubling his tally soon after his opener, crashing the ball against the bar following another fine dart into the box. The former Burnley man was involved in yet another chance just before half-time, testing Federici, with Ramirez blasting wide on the rebound.
Reading looked all out of ideas in the second half, rarely testing their opponents. Saints looked comfortable on the ball throughout. The only criticism you could perhaps lay at the team is they didn't create as many chances as their play warranted, and no matter how well Saints were performing, nobody in the away end felt completely relaxed while there was still only one goal in it. Steven Davis was put through one-on-one early on, but couldn't get the better of Federici. On the hour-mark Rodriguez drifted a dangerous cross into the area, which just evaded Lambert. Saints moved the ball about very well. Reading were bamboozled by the one-touch football at times. Adam Lallana wrapped things up on 72 minutes. In another incisive piece of play, the substitute played a brilliant one-two with Rodriguez before calmly finishing past Federici. Reading offered nothing going forward after the break. They were completely wasteful from set-pieces, and plodding and predictable from open play. Saints really were a joy to watch. It should have been 3-0 in stoppage time. Guly Do Prado blasted over from Nathaniel Clyne's cutback.
Saints were not at their best during the first half, and may have been punished by a better side. Reading were poor and made it easy for us at times. That said, Pochettino's men played some scintillating stuff. Both goals were of the highest quality. We looked devastating in attack, moving the ball with great speed and purpose. It's a win that near enough guarantees Premier League survival. To be pretty much safe at this stage of the season would have been unthinkable a few months ago. Saints look anything but a relegation threatened team now. Pochettino's impact has been undeniable. Providing we can keep the core of the squad together we should be in for a very exciting future. We should definitely be looking up the table rather than down now. A mid-table finish is more than likely. Adkins has a hell of a job on at Reading. I thought he set his team up reasonably well to start with, but the quality just isn't there. You could see heads dropping as soon as we took the lead. You sense most of the people involved at the Madjeski were resigned to their fate already.
Attendance: 24,108 (2,216 Saints fans)
Boruc: 8. A few funny moments for the camera, but never looked like conceding. Especially strong when dealing with set pieces
Clyne: 8. Always had the better of his man. Some great forward runs too
Yoshida: 7. Passing occasionally slightly lackadaisical, but fairly comfortable defensively
Hooiveld: 7. Like Yoshida had a fairly easy afternoon
Shaw: 8. A very good showing at both ends of the pitch. We say it every week, but it's incredible to think he's still only 17
Cork: 8. Didn't do a lot wrong. Did well to create space for himself and his teammates early on when Reading were pressing to good effect
Schneiderlin: 8. Another tireless outing, always available at both ends of the pitch
Davis: 8. Some brilliant skill that you would normally associate with the likes of Ramirez and Lallana. Another fine showing
Ramirez: 7. Didn't impress everyone in the ground, but involved in some decent link-up play, particularly in the first half. Plenty of the stuff he tried didn't come off, but his quality is obvious
Rodriguez: 9. Created a number of chances out of nothing with runs from deep. Unplayable
Lambert: 8. Another sparkling display. Enjoying a great understanding with Rodriguez
Lallana: 8. Made an instant and brilliant impact. When you have players like that on the bench you know your squad is looking strong
Guly: Should have scored with the chance he had at the end