Southampton striker Rickie Lambert hit his third hat-trick of the season as Saints took the sting out of the Hornets. The football wasn’t always pretty but the win proved to be comfortable as the Watford attack was unable to make serious inroads into the Saints defense.
Manchester United keeper Tomasz Kuszcak started his first game for Watford after joining on loan as did Marcello Trotta who joined on loan from Fulham. Saints gave a start to Danny Butterfield with Frazer Richardson still out and Tadanari Lee came in for Billy Sharp.
The game started with neither side really holding the ascendancy but it wasn’t long before Saints first goal as a long cross-field ball was sent into the box by Jose Fonte. Kuszcak came rushing out of his goal but he was easily beaten to the ball by Rickie Lambert who sent a looping header into the net with the keeper stuck in no mans land.
The goal was soon followed with another but this time it came after good work rather than an error. Morgan Schneiderlin intercepted a pass and broke forward before passing to Lambert. He in turn fed Adam Lallana on the left of the box and some tricky footwork from him bamboozled two defenders before he played a return pass to Lambert who struck a superb shot low into the corner of the net with the keeper well beaten.
2-0 and Saints were seemingly in cruise control. Lallana received a knock on the half hour and was replaced by Jason Puncheon. Moments later Lambert also received a knock but after treatment he was able to continue. Though Watford came more into the game they were unable to master the Saints defense and half time came with no more real action of note.
The second half began with Lee narrowly blazing wide from a great chance that was made by Lambert as Saints continued to look in complete control. Chances were at a premium but Watford were trying to find a way back into the game as Saints looked comfortable with their position.
Jos Hooiveldt was booked for a foul on John Eustace but the free kick was wasted as the ensuing cross was met by a coming together of Eustace and Trotta. Getting in each others way the opportunity went begging.
Tadanari Lee then made the next chance as he spun in the box and shot hard with Kuszcak making a good save. Lee went after the rebound but was shoved in the back by Dickinson which brought Saints a penalty. Rickie Lambert duly stepped up and drove a firm shot high into the net to make it 3-0 and to gain his hat-trick.
With the clock running down and he defense in control the game ended without Saints needing to be at their best. A fairly routine win that wasn’t pretty to watch but showed again that we can dig out a win if and when needed.
Nigel Adkins 8
Showed yet again that he can adapt the style to fit the need.
Sean Dyche 6
Didn’t get the performance he was hoping for from his players as they were clearly second best.