29/10/2011: Saints 3-0 Middlesbrough

Saints maintained their 100% home record with a comfortable 3-0 win over Middlesbrough. Nigel Adkins's men were in complete control from the first minute and put in yet another thoroughly entertaining display. The hosts took the game to Boro from the off, with Jose Fonte having two good early chances. On 15 minutes the pressure finally paid off when Danny Butterfield put in brilliantly weighted cross from long distance to Guly, who found the top right hand corner of the net with a header. Saints made the pitch big with their swift passing and movement, and quickly closed down in groups, allowing the visitors very little time on the ball. It was 2-0 on 29 when Adam Lallana's cross was met by Rickie Lambert at the far post. Lambert headed the ball across goal, allowing Guly a simple tap in. Saints continued to push for more goals, and opened up the Boro defence with ease time and time again. Butterfield put in another superb long ball, this time towards Lambert who headed just wide. Guly was incredibly unlucky to miss out on his hatrick when he hit the post, following some great build up play that also involved Lallana and Richard Chaplow. Middlesbrough had a great chance to pull a goal back just before the break, but former Southampton trainee Scott McDonald fired into the side netting after rounding Kelvin Davis.

The home side continued from where they left off into the second half, knocking the ball about very well. On 55 minutes Guly hobbled off injured, and was replaced by David Connolly. This brought about a slight change in the game. Middlesbrough saw more of the ball, while Saints were slightly less fluent in attack. The Championship leaders were still a threat on the counter however. Adkins switched to a diamond formation on 73 minutes, bringing on Morgan Schneiderlin for Lallana. The change didn't make much difference initially, but Saints eventually adapted to the new system and closed out the game with much more possession. On 80 minutes David Connolly finished the game off with a third goal, following great work from Lambert, who did brilliantly to manoeuvre his way through the Boro defence and put in a cross. The goal came after 25 consecutive passes, and summed up everything Saints are about these days. Tony Mowbray's side had a couple of decent efforts of their own, but they were comfortably dealt with by Davis. Adkins switched back to 4-4-2 in the last few minutes after bringing on Steve De Ridder. The Belgian combined excellently with Connolly, who crossed the ball for Lambert to fire a powerful volley at Middlesbrough keeper Jason Steele. The scoreline finished 3-0, but it could have been much much more.

Yet another superb afternoon of football. Every week you wonder how long we can keep up these levels of performances, but every week we keep producing the goods. Today we performed as well as we have all season, if not better. There wasn't a single passenger out there for us, every man did their job. We worked so well as a unit, pressing in numbers disrupting the flow of Middlesbrough's attacks. The speed of thought and creativity from the likes of Lallana, Guly , Lambert and Cork make us almost impossible to deal with going forward. The team is as fit as ever meaning the energy levels never drop. Middlesbrough didn't even play that badly, but we were still lightyears ahead of them. We've got through a tough month of games unbeaten, and outplayed some of our divisional rivals. Saints are top on merit. No other Championship side come close to us in terms of quality football and consistency. These are good times, but there is more to come.

Attendance: 26,630 (1,644 Middlesbrough fans)

Match Ratings:

Davis: 8. Excellent shot stopping and a big presence in the box as always.

Butterfield: 8. Put in a number of great long passes, including one for the first goal. Very clever defensively too.

Fonte: 8. Best performance of the season so far. Strong in defence with a number of very well timed challenges. Also caused problems going forward

Hooiveld: 8. Barely put a foot wrong. Looks well at home alongside Fonte now.

Fox: 8. Continues to get better every game. Distribution first class.

Chaplow: 9. A complete performance. Defended well, but also put in some great energetic forward runs. Passing, tackling and positional sense first class.

Cork: 8. Kept things ticking in midfield with a great range of passing.

Hammond: 8. Lots of endeavour with end product to boot.

Lallana: 8. Great to see him back. A joy to watch as always, some great trickery on the ball.

Guly: 8. Two goals and the usual inventive footwork. Unlucky not to get a hatrick.

Lambert: 9. Deserved a goal following a superb all round display. Worked hard and created many openings for others

Substitutes:

Connolly: 7. A goal, and some great link up play with Lambert.

Schneiderlin: 7. Did well to retain possession and see the game out.

De Ridder: . A few flashes of brilliance towards the end.