24/03/2012: Saints 2-0 Doncaster

Saints secured yet another vital win in their quest for promotion. The game was played at a fairly slow tempo, with few clear cut chances for either team. Doncaster sat back with 10 men behind the ball, making it difficult for Saints to break them down. The hosts played a patient passing game from the back early on, before putting the ball over the top into wide areas. Saints struggled to create too many openings however. The home side enjoy a great deal of possession, but lacked the incisive movement needed to break down a disciplined Doncaster defence. Rovers had a few opportunities to nick something at the other end too. Freddy Piquionne got the better of Jos Hooivled on the left hand side, before pulling the ball back to El Hadji-Diouf in the centre of the penalty area. Diouf had his shot blocked by a last ditch challenge from Jack Cork. Rickie Lambert had a shout for a penalty at the other end of the pitch, while former Donny man Billy Sharp had a few half chances, with the ball not quite falling for him.

Saints were forced into a change early into the second half, with the injured Lambert coming off for Richard Chaplow. Steve De Ridder was moved further forward in behind Sharp, giving Saints more vigour in attack. The home side were starting to find gaps going forward, and eventually broke the deadlock on 58 minutes when Sharp powered in a header from a Danny Fox corner. The goal opened the game up slightly, with Saints spending the majority of the second period in the Doncaster half. Sharp grabbed his second of the afternoon when Habib Beye failed to deal with a long ball forward from Jose Fonte. The stocky centre forward smashed a volley past his former teammate Carl Ikeme. Sharp pushed hard for his hatrick and created an opportunity for Richard Chaplow after charging down Ikeme's clearance. Chaplow's shot went well wide however. Sharp also became embroiled in an on-pitch dispute with Rovers full back Pascal Chimbonda, which made for entertaining viewing.

Saints did what they had to do today. It wasn't the prettiest of games, but Nigel Adkins's men got the job done, which is the only thing that matters at this stage of the season. The two players who had the most influence in Doncaster's win in the corresponding fixture at the Keepmoat were once again heavily involved in this game. Billy Sharp scored the only goal back in December, while Habib Beye put on one of the best defensive showings of the season at the other end. On this occasion Sharp netted the goals again, with the second coming from a Beye mistake. Saints proved yet again they have the strength in depth amongst the squad. Adkins had to do without Frazer Richardson, Tadanari Lee, Guly Do Prado and David Connolly, with Rickie Lambert also hobbling off early into the second period. Saints managed to grind out a result with a number of important names missing. We need those players back soon, but credit to the boys out there today who filled in very capably. Saints are on an incredible run of form right now, and look to have the mental strength to be able to carry it on for the remaining seven games. West Ham dropped points yet again, which only added to the good feeling at St Marys.

Attendance: 30,209

Match Ratings:

Davis: 6. Didn't have much to do, with Doncaster offering little threat going forward.

Butterfield: 6. Defended intelligently, but passing was often disappointing. Gave the ball away too many times.

Fonte: 7. Solid defensively and some good long balls forward

Hooiveld: 5. Not his best performance by a long way. Came off second best to Piquionne on a few occasions.

Fox: 7. Not troubled a great deal defensively, but very strong on the ball. Great set piece delivery.

De Ridder: 7. Made some great runs, although lacked end product in the first half. Much improved in the second half after moving up top.

Schneiderlin: 7. Good range of passing as you would expect.

Cork: 7. Solid without being particular spectacular. Defensive block on Diouf in the first half was incredibly important

Lallana: 7. Worked hard, although not quite as eye-catching as usual.

Lambert: 6. Was suffering a knock all the way through and as a result looked slightly off the pace

Sharp: 7. Was fairly quiet before the goal, but grew in confidence as the game went on. Movement a lot better after his opener.

Substitutes:

Chaplow: 6. Worked hard for the team, putting in some crunching tackles.

Barnard: 6. Probably his best showing of the season (Not saying much I know). Worked hard at closing down

Hammond: Kept things ticking with short passing in the final 10 minutes.