Southampton's 100% home record remains intact following a 3-0 hammering of Brighton. The result was fully deserved, with the visitors showing little in the way of attacking ambition. Gus Poyet set his team out to park the bus and defend in great numbers, which made for a slightly disappointing first half. Brighton played with eleven men sat behind the ball and allowed Saints precious little space. Nigel Adkins's most dangerous players, Rickie Lambert, Guly Do Prado and Adam Lallana were tightly marked, and had to work hard to create openings. Saints even had to resort to hitting it long on occasions, with a number of passes going wayward. The hosts frequently got the ball into Brighton's box, but despite a number of decent penalty shouts, clear cut chances were few and far between. The visitors were pretty much nonexistent as an attacking threat. They had just one shot before the break, and that was a long range effort that flew miles over the bar.
After a frustrating first half, Saints needed just three minutes to break down Brighton after the interval. Frazer Richardson put in a deep cross to the far post for Lambert, who headed in from close range. This inevitably opened the game up, with Brighton now forced to come forward in search of a goal. They nearly got an equaliser immediately, after a defensive mix up between Kelvin Davis and Richardson. The ball eventually fell to Billy Paynter, who had his shot blocked as a number of Saints players threw themselves in the path of danger. Saints soon had another claim for a penalty when Dean Hammond was brought down by Steve Harper. The referee booked Hammond for diving however, without much protest from the Saints captain. On 54 minutes the home side were finally given a penalty after Jose Fonte was pulled down by Lewis Dunk. The foul had quite clearly taken place outside the box, but after a number of legitimate penalty decisions had gone against us earlier in the game it was the least we deserved. There was a long delay before the kick could be taken, as Brighton furiously protested. 58 year old Mauricio Taricco was sent off for persistently complaining. Not long after the match had finished, Richard Chaplow hilariously revealed on Twitter that Taricco had boasted to him and Lallana that he had them in his pocket all afternoon. Despite the wait, Lambert stepped up and finished with ease to make it 2-0. Saints rarely let the ball out of their sight from this point and made their one man advantage really count. Nigel Adkins's side should have had another penalty when Lambert was literally wrestled to the ground. On 60 minutes Saints brought Schneiderlin on for Hammond, switching to a 4-3-1-2, with Lallana playing in the hole behind Guly and Lambert. A second penalty was finally awarded on 69 minutes when former Saints target Inigo Calderon fouled Lambert. The Southampton number 7 had to take his penalty twice, after Steve Harper unsportingly moved forward just before the kick could be taken. Lambert was not fazed one bit however, slotting home for his hatrick. Saints showed what they were all about in the final 20 minutes, and opened up their opponents with ease, with a number of well worked moves. Lambert got a brilliant header on goal which was well saved by Harper, and Lee Barnard nodded just over too. Despite all the chances, Saints failed to add to their tally in another thoroughly enjoyable afternoon at St Marys.
A very rewarding day for Saints. Brighton came with the sole intention of disrupting our play and defending for a draw. They showed absolutely nothing going forward, and fully deserved to come away from the game without anything to show. Predictably Poyet blamed the referee for the result in his post match interview, but conveniently forgot all the other penalty decisions that should have been given to us but weren't. Nigel Adkins's side weren't that impressive in the first half, but that was mainly because of Brighton's spoiling tactics. They are without doubt the dirtiest and most cynical side to play at St Marys this season. Onwards and upwards for Saints though. Brighton certainly can't keep up with us, but neither can many others. We now have an 8 point gap over 3rd place Middlesbrough. There's nothing to suggest the good times won't continue for some time to come either.
Attendance: 31,812 (3,237 Brighton fans)
Davis: 6. Had virtually nothing to do all game
Richardson: 7. Some great bursting runs forward. Put in the cross for Lambert's first. Did give the ball away a few times early on, and mistake nearly led to a Brighton goal immediately after our opener.
Fonte: 8. Dealt brilliantly with Craig Mackail-Smith, making a number of well timed sliding tackles. Also broke forward with good effect on a number of occasions.
Hooiveld: 7. Didn't put a foot wrong all afternoon. A very assured display
Fox: 7. Rarely troubled defensively, but some good cross field balls.
Chaplow: 7. Struggled early on, and passing was sometimes wayward, but improved massively in the second half and put in some good crosses.
Cork: 8. The most impressive player in a scrappy first half. Worked the ball well in tight areas, and calm under pressure. Continued to show his quality after the break as more space became available.
Hammond: 8. Excellent in possession, with some great through balls.
Lallana: 7. Kept very quiet in the first half, but found a lot more joy after Brighton went down to 10. Involved in a number of good training ground type routines towards the end of the game.
Lambert: 8. Marked very tightly in the first half and struggled to get into the game. Another hatrick in the second, and a constant menace inside the opposition's box.
Guly: 7. Struggled to make an impact early on despite working hard, as Brighton defended in numbers to nullify his threat. Involved in some good link up play just before coming off.
Schneiderlin: 7. Total class on the ball as you would expect. Some eye-catching skill on show
De Ridder: 6. Some good running as always.
Barnard: Very close to a comeback goal