Southampton grabbed another vital away win in the Championship after a 1-0 success at Leeds. Rickie Lambert's first half volley was enough to separate the 2 teams at Elland Road. Leeds pilled on the pressure however Kelvin Davis produced a man-of-the-match performance to keep the Lilywhites at bay. The result extends Southampton's lead at the top to four points over West Ham who travel to Cardiff this afternoon.
Neil Warnock was in the Elland Road dugout for the first time since he took over as Leeds manager. He saw his side dominate the first ten minutes of the match even though Southampton might have given a penalty away early on where Robert Sondgrass’ effort was blocked by defender José Fonte’s raising arms to protect his face. The visitors were on the back foot moments later where Jos Hooiveld’s cleared header found the boot of Leeds midfielder Adam Clayton where he his lacklustre effort was comfortable for Southampton goalkeeper Kelvin Davis. The visitors went on the attack soon after where Jack Cork delivered the perfect cross from the right hand side for Tadanari Lee to head back to Rickie Lambert to volley home from close range on 14 minutes. Lambert’s goal was against the run of play although he extended his tally to 20 league goals for the season.
|Rickie Lambert volleys in Southampton's winner at Elland Road|
Unfortunately, Southampton couldn’t keep the ball for long periods during the first half as Leeds came back onto the attack with Snodgrass firing his volley high into the stand and Ross McCormack’s curling effort went just wide of the left post. The Scottish international provided the cross for Luciano Becchio to force an excellent one handed save from Kelvin Davis. Snodgrass was back in the action as a lovely move on the left ended with the Leeds captain curling his effort just wide off the far post. Aiden White repeated the same feat just before half-time for the home side which his effort produced the same outcome as Snodgrass’ moments before.
Knowing that Leeds were providing all of the pressure, Southampton boss Nigel Adkins made a double change at half-time bringing on Dean Hammond and Guly Do Prado for Jason Puncheon. Southampton avoided conceding an equaliser minutes into the second half after Snodgrass crossed in from the left for Becchio to get a toe onto the ball which went just over the crossbar. The Southampton defence would be back in the thick of the action on 62 minutes when Adam Clayton’s cross, from the outside of his right foot, was competed by Becchio and Davis in the air with Becchio getting to the ball to steer it towards goal. Fortunately for Southampton, Davis dived just in time to scoop the ball away from the goalline which was eventually cleared away by the Saints. The Southampton goalkeeper was forced to make another save a minute this time from substitute Danny Webber after he played a one-two with Becchio in the box. Webber, who signed on loan from moneyless Portsmouth earlier in the week, had yet another effort saved by the right hand of Davis from outside the box. Webber missed another great opportunity to equalise for Leeds after Becchio hooked the ball towards his strike partner, Frazer Richardson miskicked and Webber came in to lift the ball over Davis but just off the near post.
|DETERMINED: Kelvin Davis claws the ball away from the goal-line|
Leeds were starting to wonder if it was ever going to be their day as Southampton kept the score at 1-0. The last 10 minutes of the match was to be the most eventful in Southampton’s season to date starting with Lambert’s right-footed curling effort forced Leeds goalkeeper Andy Lonegan to tip it around the far post. Two minutes later, Snodgrass delivered the corner for White at the fast post to head against the ground and come off the crossbar. Darren O’Dea headed the rebound onto the bar again for Leeds with a massive goalmouth scramble in the Southampton six-yard-box using the human chain method to prevent the home side from equalising. An unbelievable climax to the game with Southampton defending their lead right up until the final whistle, which finally came for the league leaders from referee Miller. The Southampton squad celebrated like they've just been crowned Championship winners however there is still a long way to go until April 28th. For Leeds, it is a massive blow to their play-off hopes as they stay in 10th although they have played a game more than the clubs around them.
|RELIEF!: Southampton celebrate their win whilst Leeds show|
Overall, it is a fantastic victory for the Saints at a ground where they don't have the best of records, winning just 6 league matches in their history at Elland Road. Their seventh victory is arguably the most important to Southampton Football Club in terms of their Premier League ambitions. Watching the game yesterday was one of the most tense matches that I have ever seen with Leeds pilling on the pressure as the game went on. Southampton didn't play like league leaders do however credit to Leeds for their fast, attacking prowess however the determination to keep the score at 1-0 throughout the match was just outstanding. Kelvin Davis deserved his man-of-the-match award after another set of crucial saves including scooping the ball away from Becchio's close range effort. His consistency this season has been second to none which he suffered the hard times when the club went into administration which resulted relegation to League One back in 2009. He has always been a superb shot-stopper and I feel that he can produce the same performances in the Premier League after a forgettable time at Sunderland.
Here are some of the reaction from fellow Saints fans regarding the match on Saturday:
@SotonianRed: We played awfully (with the notable exceptions of KD, JC, RL) but ground out an ugly win. That's what champions do!
@sn00ksta: The grittiest Saints performance I have ever witnessed. Not nice to watch, but winning when you play like that is a sign of champions.
@Ian_Strong: It was a performance of guts and character. To win without playing well is always important. Kelvin and the defence were huge.
@JasPacePZOO: thank fook we don't play like that every week! But thanks to Kelv and Lambert for the 3 points.
@morrisdancer85: Never seen anything like it. We didn't turn up at all. Under pressure the whole game and Lambo nicks one. The whole team defended like trojans, you learn far more from a win like that than a 4/5 nil. Massively proud.
@DanielSheerin1: When you look at teams in the past who have been promoted, they can grind out those results where all the pressure is on them.
@MikeIssacSaints: Game proved our promotion credentials, had to defend 95% of the game and kept a clean sheet. When we attacked, we looked like scoring.