Saints remain top of the Championship table after a comprehensive thrashing of Watford. Nigel Adkins's men played some scintillating football at times, but it was the visitors who were on top in the first 20 minutes. Watford started brightly, with the type of movement and quick passing that Saints would be proud of. Jonathan Hogg was given all the time in the world when he was played through on goal in the early moments, but fluffed his opportunity. Soon after, Jose Fonte let the ball bounce to Joe Garner, who saw a shot tipped over by Kelvin Davis. Saints opened the scoring through a Rickie Lambert penalty on 22 minutes, after John Eustace handled Steve De Ridder's cross. That was followed by a bit of a lull, as both teams felt the effects of the heat. The hosts gradually improved as the half went on though, and were unlucky not to have a second when Lallana crashed a shot against the underside of the bar.
Saints were in complete control after the break, putting in yet another attractive display in front of the St Marys crowd. It was 2-0 when Rickie Lambert tucked away his second spot kick of the afternoon. Lambert won the penalty when he was brought down by Adrian Mariappa. Saints would have surely had a third goal on 63 if Steve De Ridder had squared the ball to Guly, who had a clear run at goal, instead of selfishly going it alone from a much more difficult angle. That was De Ridder's last contribution, as he was subbed for Richard Chaplow, with Saints switching to a diamond midfield. Guly finally did get his goal on 70 minutes, when Lallana cut the ball back for the Brazilian, who stopped to swivel on the ball and pick his spot, ala Ronaldinho against Chelsea circa 2006. Nigel Adkins's side stepped up the tempo in the final quarter, as Watford struggled to get anywhere near to the ball. Chaplow was inches away when his shot hit the inside of the post. Frazer Richardson ran the length of the pitch before testing the excellent Hornets keeper Gilmartin with a stinging shot. Lambert was also incredibly unlucky to miss out on yet another hatrick. It was substitute Lee Holmes who added the fourth and final goal just two minutes after coming on, curling a powerful shot from long range past Gilmartin, capping off a superb afternoon of football.
Saints recorded their 16th home win in a row today and bar the first 25 minutes or so, looked as good as they have done all season. It was the perfect response to two disappointing away performaces. Nigel Adkins was boosted by the return to form of star men Jack Cork, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert, who had previously looked out of sorts at Cardiff. When Saints are in the kind of mood they were in during the second half there is nobody in this division that can stop us. Adkins spoke about the positive impact his substitutions made in his post match interview. His changes nearly always make a difference, and today was no exception. It's the fifth game in a row that a substitute has got on the score sheet. I spoke at length about the fans at Cardiff in my last match report, and once again I was disappointed that some chose to boo when we attempt to play the ball out from the back. We need to be patient and let the team do their thing. We haven't got to the top of the league by hoofing it forward as quickly as possible. With a tough run of games coming up this month, the upcoming international break has come at an ideal time. Saints need to be at their very best against the likes of Derby and West Ham, so a two week rest should do us the world of good.
Attendance: 23,574 (1,545 Watford fans)
Davis: 7. Made some great fingertip saves.
Richardson: 7. Solid defensively, and good marauding runs going forward.
Fonte: 6. A few lapses of concentration early on, but overall fairly decent
Hooiveld: 7. Looked assured all afternoon.
Fox: 6. Left gaps at the back on a few occasions, but also put in some great crossfield balls.
De Ridder: 6. Not quite as spectacular as previous matches, but worked hard. Not yet the finished article, decision making could be better.
Cork: 7. Back to his best today. Only negative was his deserved booking for a rash challenge in the first half.
Hammond: 7. Passing was erratic in the first half, but improved greatly in the second.
Lallana: 8. Was everywhere today. Watford struggled to cope with his mazy runs.
Guly: 8. A class act on the ball. Scored a great goal, and created space for others.
Lambert: 8. Two goals and a constant nuisance in and around the Watford penalty area.
Chaplow: 7. Made a big impact after coming on. Unlucky not to score.
Schneiderlin: 7. Kept things ticking in midfield.
Holmes: Great to see him getting on the score sheet.