28/04/2012: Saints 4-0 Coventry

Saints returned to the Premier League in style, thumping Coventry 4-0 in front of a record St Marys crowd. The result was never really in doubt after Billy Sharp opened the scoring on 16 minutes. The home side had looked slightly nervy in the opening quarter however, with Coventry starting well. For all the good build up play, the visitors lacked any real presence up front. Saints looked to play patiently from the back, with Morgan Schneiderlin pinging some fantastic long range passes to wide areas. On 8 minutes Cody McDonald was presented with a decent opportunity when Jos Hooiveld and Danny Fox misjudged the flight of the ball. His cross was cut out by Schneiderlin however. From the resulting corner Gary McSheffrey tested Kelvin Davis with a stinging close range effort. Saints recovered from that relatively poor early spell, and broke the deadlock with a goal of the highest quality. Jose Fonte made a brilliant run forward, taking the ball half the length of the pitch before feeding Guly Do Prado on the right hand side. Guly chipped the ball in for Adam Lallana on the edge of the penalty area. His low shot took the slightest of deflections off Sharp before hitting the back of the net. Saints grew in confidence after that goal, and doubled their advantage just three minutes later. Danny Butterfield won a corner following some good link up play between him and Guly on the right. Danny Fox's resulting set piece was headed down into the ground and over the head of the Coventry defender and into the back of the net. Saints were in complete control for the rest of the half, and never looked like surrendering their lead. On 37 minutes Dean Hammond was forced off injured and replaced by Jack Cork. Nigel Adkins switched to a diamond midfield, with Guly moving inside and Cork taking up a role on the right. Saints slowed the tempo just before the break.

Saints picked up where they left off at the start of the second half, and played some more eye-catching football. The hosts kept the ball on the ground, working their way up the pitch with some intricate triangles. Rickie Lambert fired a long range effort just wide of the post. On 58 minutes Saints killed off the game with a third goal. Fox's corner was flicked on by Guly, before Sharp's shot was blocked. Jos Hooiveld was there where it mattered to tap the ball in from a few yards out. It was 4-0 on 63 minutes. Lambert nodded the ball down for Lallana in the area, who lifted the ball over the keeper at the far post. It was party time during the final 30 minutes. Saints fans sounded their appreciation as the team showcased some more stunning football. The ball was mostly stuck in Coventry's half, and there could have very easily been more goals, but it remained at 4-0. When the referee blew for full-time on 91:12 fans flooded the pitch in celebration.

What a day. Saints proved why they deserve to be in the top flight with a fine footballing display. The performance epitomised everything that has been good about the team this year. Everyone should be incredibly proud of every single player and all the staff for their incredible efforts this season. They’ve all played their part and thoroughly deserve all the praise that's coming their way. Nigel Adkins has exceeded everyone's expectations and got the absolute best out of all his players. It completes a remarkable 7 year journey. Saints are now back where they belong. The last three years have been nothing short of incredible, and hopefully the good times have only just begun. WE ARE SOUTHAMPTON WE’RE PREMIER LEAGUE!

Stay tuned to TheSaintsHub this week for more reaction and analysis to our Premier League return.

Attendance: 32,363

Match Ratings:

Davis: 8. Kept out Coventry early on with a string of fine saves. Was never going to be beaten.

Butterfield: 8. Solid defensively, and great going forward. Put in some dangerous crosses.

Fonte: 8. Distribution a bit iffy early on, but recovered brilliantly, playing a key role in the opening goal before netting the second.

Hooiveld: 8. One mistake nearly yet Coventry in early on, but otherwise faultless. Yet another goal into the bargain.

Fox: 8. Always looked dangerous with his passing.

Guly: 8. Outstanding movement and creativity.

Schneiderlin: 9. Controlled the game. A great range of passing, and some fine defensive work too. Broke up play with a number of well-timed tackles/interceptions.

Hammond: 7. Looked good before being forced off with an unfortunate injury in the first half.

Lallana: 8. A goal, plus all the usual energy and skill.

Lambert: 7. Not everything he tried came off, but worked very hard despite being very tightly marked.

Sharp: 7. Will claim the first goal. Some good link up play.

Substitutes:

Cork: 8. Didn’t put a foot wrong. Worked his way out of tight areas with neat footwork. Passing also top-notch

De Ridder: 6. Made some dangerous runs in the final 15 minutes.

Puncheon: Good to see him make a return to the side