18/09/2011: Saints 4-1 Birmingham

Saints returned to the top of the Championship table today after a comfortable 4-1 win over Birmingham. The result was never really in doubt, with Nigel Adkins's side putting in another entertaining performance. The first ten minutes of the game were difficult however, with heavy rain making it hard for either side to get any rhythm going. Saints defender Jos Hooiveld nearly landed the home side in trouble when he slipped, allowing Marlon King an opportunity on goal which he squandered. As the sun came out, Saints brightened up too. Rickie Lambert opened the scoring from a penalty that went in off the post on 12 minutes after he was held in the box by Blues defender Steven Caldwell. The home side stepped it up a gear after that and doubled their advantage on 21 minutes when Frazer Richardson crossed for Guly, who finished beautifully past Birmingham keeper Boaz Myhill. Adam Lallana made in 3-0 on 34 minutes, following good work from Guly and Richardson on the right hand side.

Birmingham made a good start to the second half, pulling a goal back on 49 minutes through a Chris Wood free kick, which crept under the wall. The visitors had a few more opportunities here and there, but lacked any real cutting edge going forward to ever entertain any serious thoughts of making a comeback. Right back Steven Carr hit the post with a long range effort which was reminiscent of a goal he scored for Newcastle at St Marys back in 2004/05. Marlon King also had a shot well saved by Davis. Saints were on top for most of the game however, and sealed the result on 78 minutes when Richard Chaplow finished a one-on-one past Myhill after a great through ball from Lallana. David Connolly also had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside before the final whistle.

Another win and another Championship side brushed off with ease. Saints were much improved from last week, and put in the sort of rousing display that we've become accustomed to in recent times. Nigel Adkins's side looked more balanced with Frazer Richardson returning to the starting line up at right back, and Jack Cork in midfield. Richardson was particularly impressive, and his contribution was key in today's win. All four goals came from brilliant build up play, with the team continuing to show great understanding between each other. All that good training ground work is clearly paying off. There are still a few issues defensively, but Hooiveld and Fox are showing signs of improvement. It's great to be top of the league again and it's great to be a fan right now. Long may it continue.

Attendance: 22,155 (821 Birmingham fans)

Match Ratings:

Davis: 7 Brilliant one handed save from King in the second half.

Richardson: 8 Excellent defensively and going forward.

Fonte: 7 Dealt with everything Birmingham had to throw at him.

Hooiveld: 6 A few nervy moments, but an improved display from last week.

Fox: 7 Not tested much defensively. Put in some great long balls.

Guly: 7 Passing not quite at the level of previous weeks, but still showed moments of quality. Involved in two of the goals.

Cork: 7 Looked far more comfortable back in his preferred position in midfield.

Hammond: 8 Was everywhere today, passing and tackling top class. A real captain's performance.

Lallana: 8 Made experienced pros like Steven Carr and Curtis Davies look stupid at times. Running caused Brum problems all afternoon.

Lambert: 7 Another goal in a good all round display.

Connolly: 8 Movement was top class today.

Substitutes:

Chaplow: 7 Gave the side more energy after coming on.

Schneiderlin: Had a shot sail wide in the closing stages.

De Ridder: Showed a few glimpses of magic towards the end.