Saints returned to winning ways today after a fairly comfortable 2-0 victory over Barnsley. The home side were in control for most of the match and fully deserved to come away with all three points. Saints had to be patient in the early going, with Barnsley closing down space effectively. After a reasonable start, Nigel Adkins's men entered a slightly sloppy spell, with passes going astray and players running into each other. The crowd grew frustrated, but the visitors failed to capitalise and didn't really test Kelvin Davis. Stephen Foster headed wide from a corner, while David Cotterill also missed the target. That was about it as far as Barnsley were concerned however. Saints quickly regained control of the ball, thanks in part to a change in shape, with Guly coming into the middle as part of a diamond. Adam Lallana opened the scoring on 36 minutes, after Frazer Richardson's long ball was flicked on by Rickie Lambert. Other chances before the break included a Jose Fonte header from Danny Fox's free kick.
Saints completely dominated the second period, and spent large portions of the half playing keep ball. Morgan Schneiderlin got things rolling early on with a long range effort which was parried by Tykes stopper Luke Steele. On 52 minutes the hosts doubled their lead thanks to a terrific run from Tadanari Lee. The Japanese livewire cut in from the left, before pulling the ball back to Lallana, who had a simple tap in. Saints continued to enjoy large spells of possession, but for all the pretty football, there weren't too many clear cut chances created. David Connolly and Guly had shots blocked, while Lallana reacted furiously when the referee refused his appeal for a penalty. In a rare bit of action at the other end, Barnsley hit the post when Danny Rose connected with a free kick. Jos Hooiveld gave Steele a real scare with an absolute piledriver from 35 yards out. Connolly was unlucky not to connect with the rebound. Saints saw out the final few minutes with ease.
Another important win in the race for promotion. Apart from a ten minute spell in the first half, Saints looked impressive throughout, particularly in the second half. They dictated the pace of the game and played some eye catching stuff. Nigel Adkins has great options all over the pitch, with the defence as strong as ever and the attacking players firing on all cylinders. All three substitutes made a positive impact too, while the likes of Richard Chaplow and Jason Puncheon weren't even involved. Saints look very strong at the moment, and will need to be at their best in the upcoming weeks in order to see of the challenge of both West Ham and Reading. Both sides will go level on points at the top of the table if their games in hand. With Reading in particular looking unstoppable at the moment, Saints can afford little margin of error in the remaining ten games. Fortunately we have the strength and depth in our squad to see it through.
Attendance: 24,862 (418 Barnsley fans)
Davis: 6. Had nothing to do all game.
Richardson: 7. Slightly lethargic on the ball in the opening 25 minutes or so, but improved as the game wore on and was a threat going forward.
Fonte: 8. Decision making spot on as usual. Very composed at the back, dealt with Barnsley comfortably.
Hooiveld: 7. Long passing a bit disappointing early on, but that soon sorted itself out. Very solid defensively, and an absolute rocket of a shot towards the end of the game.
Fox: 8. His return certainly gave the side a boost. Won a number of tackles and started off attacks from the back with a mixture of good forward runs and crosses.
Guly: 7. Slightly sloppy early on, but improved considerably after switching to the middle. Was in his element in the second half, showcasing some eye-catching skill.
Hammond: 7. A very disciplined job in front of the back, allowing Schneiderlin greater license to get forward.
Schneiderlin: 8. Was in total control of the football in the second half, and looked dangerous going forward.
Lallana: 8. Looked energetic all afternoon. Capped off a good all round display with two goals.
Lee: 7. Worked hard throughout, but wasn't able to get involved in too many threatening situations in the first half. That all changed in the second. Brilliantly created the second goal.
Lambert: 7. No goal today, but lots of good link up play. Had a role in the first goal.
Cork: 7. Slotted in perfectly to the teams brilliant second half passing showcase.
Connolly: 7. Worked incredibly hard and got himself in some great positions.
Sharp: Held the ball up well, but didn't really have enough time to make too much of an impression.