Saints 1-1 Cardiff

Saints remain one place behind Championship leaders West Ham, following a 1-1 draw with Cardiff at St Marys. The home side could have won it were it not for some questionable refereeing. Cardiff started the game well, with Saints initially looking slightly lethargic, especially at the back. Malky Mackay employed a 4-1-4-1 formation, which was very difficult to break down. The Bluebirds sat back, and looked to grab something on the counter or from a set piece. The first major chance for Nigel Adkins's side came when Adam Lallana brilliantly twisted and turned on the left hand side, before crossing for Rickie Lambert, who headed just over. Saints then had two very decent penalty shouts turned down. Both Lambert and Lallana were brought down in the box, yet incredibly, nothing was given. The hosts missed a great opportunity to really test Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall, when David Connolly and Lallana passed the ball back and forth on the edge of the area, rather than going for goal. Cardiff then took the lead on 36 minutes from a corner, when Craig Conway smashed the ball through a crowd of players into the back of the net. Saints furiously protested that Davis had been obstructed in the build up to the goal. Nigel Adkins immediately switched to a diamond midfield, which completely changed the game in the home sides favour.

Saints dominated the second half, with a good display of attacking football, allowing Cardiff a lot less time on the ball. The home side had yet another good shout for a penalty when Lallana was brought down by Stephen McPhail. Rickie Lambert finally got an opportunity from the spot when the referee spotted a handball from Kevin McNaughton. The Southampton number seven made no mistake from 12 yards, blasting the ball past Marshall. Saints pushed hard for a winner, but found it difficult to break through a sturdy Cardiff defence. The Bluebirds occasionally threatened at the other end too, although lone striker Kenny Miller was completely wasteful in front of goal. Saints had plenty of possession in Cardiff's penalty area, but struggled to find enough space to get many clear shots away. Substitute Tadanari Lee and Jack Cork went close, but couldn't quite connect with their shots. Jose Fonte was even thrown up front in stoppage time, but the winning goal never came.

Saints were unfortunate not to come away with all three points, but can take great heart from a very good performance. Nigel Adkins's men were particularly impressive in the second half. Saints now have enough strength in depth to really challenge for the title. Steve De Ridder didn't even make the bench tonight, while Jos Hooiveld, Richard Chaplow and Guly Do Prado should soon return from injury. Adkins is spoiled for choice, particularly in attacking areas. This means he will now be able to rotate his squad a lot more, something he was unable to do in the first half of the season. Jason Puncheon impressed yet again, whilst Tadanari Lee gives us something very different up front. Looking at the upcoming fixtures, there's no reason Saints shouldn't be looking at maximum points from their remaining home games. Iím still extremely confident that we will finish the season as Champions

Attendance: 24,356 (1,842 Cardiff fans)

Match Ratings:

Davis: 7. Shot stopping very good, although did aimlessly flap at one cross towards the end

Richardson: 7. Lethargic in possession on occasions, but made some good forward runs

Fonte: 7. Great to have him back. Calm under pressure in defence.

Martin: 7. Looked shaky early on, but decision making was much improved in the second half.

Fox: 6. Passing was a bit hit and miss.

Puncheon: 7. Worked incredibly hard again, and looked threatening going forward. Covered a lot of ground

Cork: 8. Very strong in the tackle and good on the ball.

Schneiderlin: 8. Superb as usual. Got the better of Whittingham in front of the back four.

Lallana: 8. Back to his best tonight. Cardiff couldn't cope with his mazy runs. Created a lot, although sometimes needs to be a bit more ruthless in front of goal.

Connolly: 6. Worked hard, but nothing really came off for him tonight.

Lambert: 8. A constant threat in the air

Substitutes:

Lee: 7. Really put himself about, making some excellent runs, and held the ball up well.

Hammond: Brought on in the last few minutes to get to grips with the midfield.