11/02/2012: Saints 2-0 Burnley

Saints got back to winning ways today, comfortably seeing off a lacklustre Burnley. The home side were in complete control for much of the contest, and never really looked like losing. Nigel Adkins brought Billy Sharp into the starting line up for the first time, which meant a wide role for Guly Do Prado. Saints looked threatening going forward from kick off, and had plenty of zip about their play. Most of their early attacks came down the right, with Adam Lallana looking particularly dangerous. On 8 minutes Guly Do Prado played in Frazer Richardson down the right flank, before Richardson crossed for Lallana, who looped his header over Burnley keeper Lee Grant. Saints dominated possession throughout the first half and had a number of chances to add to their lead. On 12 minutes Danny Fox broke free on the left hand side, before cutting the ball back to an open Rickie Lambert, who had his shot turned round the post. Lambert later had an effort headed off the line from a corner. For all the attractive play however, the second goal came about almost by fluke. Lambert chipped the ball into the box, and it somehow ended up in the back of the net, following a misunderstanding between the Burnley defence and keeper Grant, who misjudged the situation. Sharp may have got the slightest of touches, but the goal will probably go down as Ben Mee OG. The rest of the first half was played out at a slightly lower tempo, with Saints still firmly in control.

Eddie Howe introduced Marvin Bartley and Josh McQuoid at the start of the second half. Bartley was particularly impressive; improving things significantly for the visitors. Burnley worked harder in midfield, and saw a lot more of the ball early on, but still rarely threatened in front of goal. They won a number of corners, which were all dealt with comfortably. Saints stepped it up again later in the half, and regained control of the football. Jack Cork was particularly impressive, spraying the ball about with great effect. His long side footed pass to Lambert was the pick of the bunch. The home side had a number of chances to extend their lead in the final quarter. Substitute David Connolly caused havoc in the penalty area, and was unlucky to come away from the game without a goal. He had one disallowed for offside, after following up on Lambert's initial saved effort. Saints squandered further opportunities, before comfortably seeing out the game.

A very pleasing day for Nigel Adkins and co. Saints picked up their first home win of the year, and also put on a performance reminiscent of early season displays. With other results going our way, things are now looking very healthy at the top of the Championship. Saints now hold a five point gap over 3rd place Birmingham and are only 1 point behind leaders West Ham. While some of our promotion rivals have a game in hand over us due to the postponements today, few will relish another mid-week fixture thrown into an already congested calendar. Saints are now in a position to reclaim top spot on Tuesday with a win at West Ham. It won't be easy, but if we play as well as we did today, then we'll be in with a great chance. Today's performance will do nothing but breed confidence for the months ahead. Now that Saints are back to full strength, there's no reason why we cannot replicate our early season run.

Attendance: 24,099 (1,040 Burnley fans)

Match Ratings

Davis: 7. A virtual spectator for much of the contest, but did provide some absolute killer throws out which allowed us to break away.

Richardson: 7. Linked up well with Guly on the right, getting forward with good effect.

Fonte: 7. Wasn't troubled for much of the game, but did all he had to do very well.

Hooiveld: 7. Great to have him back. Some great headed clearances.

Fox: 7. Much improved today. Made some very good forward runs.

Guly: 7. Usually kept it simple in possession, and provided a good link between the midfield and attack.

Cork: 9. Outstanding individual display. Worked the ball out of tight areas with great footwork, and provided some killer passes

Schneiderlin: 7. A little bit sloppy early on, but much improved as the game went on. Made some excellent interceptions

Lallana: 8. Very sharp today, particularly in the first half.

Lambert: 8. Excellent first touch today. Brought others into play, and was a constant goal threat himself.

Sharp: 7. A very good home debut. Good movement and hold up play.

Substitutes:

Connolly: 7. Really put himself about, adding a bit more energy up front.

Hammond: Solid as usual.

Lee: A great two minute cameo at the end of the game. A good header, tackle and shot on goal in stoppage time.