Southampton began this game knowing that a win or draw would take them back to the top of the table and on the back of a few improved performances confidence was high.
The game began in scrappy fashion but Saints were soon starting to take control. With chances proving to be hard to find it wasn’t until a Fielding blunder in the 12th minute that it looked like a chance was coming but the keeper managed to grab the ball at the second try.
The Saints were soon to strike though as a foul from Graham Scott brought a free kick. Saints managed to win a corner and from the corner which Daniel Fox sent in Jos Hooiveldt prodded the ball into the Derby net. A shade lucky maybe as the ball fell kindly but no mistake from Jos and Saints on 14 minutes were ahead and on their way.
This goal then led to a sustained spell of attacking play from Saints as they searched for a second goal. The Rams defence held firm though with some at times desperate tackling. In the 25th minute Saints came close after a great ball to Adam Lallana who twisted and turned to make space before having his left footed curler just miss.
Minutes later and the sparkling midfielder again came close as a mix up at the back by Derby handed him the ball but he was unable to convert the chance as he shot wide under close pressure from Jason Shackell. Then it was Rickie Lambert’s turn to have a go. Harding crossed deep to the far post and Lambert met it perfectly but fired just over.
Derby slowly got more into the game but were unable to trouble Saints defence. Their first effort on goal finally coming in the 42nd minute with Jamie Ward having a shot safely held by keeper Kelvin Davis.
The first half came to an end with Fielding first saving a long range effort from Cork, and then superbly pushing a fierce Lambert twenty five yard free kick over the bar. HT 1-0.
At half time manager Nigel Adkins made two changes bringing on Aaron Martin for Jos Hooiveldt and Tadanari Lee for Billy Sharp. Jos feeling a slight twinge in his leg which hopefully won’t be serious.
Derby began by threatening to get back into the game as the half got under way. Saints gave away possession but Derby though they tried were unable to find a way through. Nathan Tyson had a shot blocked as the Rams had their best moments of the game so far followed with a pass to Joel Ward but it was wasted opportunity.
After a spell of Derby pressure Saints broke and won a corner when a Lallana shot was tipped over the bar by Fielding. Fox sent in another inswinging corner and Aaron Martin managed to fire the ball home as it fell to him six yards out. 2-0 and Saints were starting to enjoy themselves.
Derby manager Nigel Clough then brought on striker Callum Ball for right back John Brayford in an attempt to get back into the match. This change soon saw Ward take a pot-shot but it flew well wide.
in the 64th minute Saints confirmed the victory was theirs with a third goal. Fox sped down the left before crossing for Lallana to calmly side foot home. A quality move and pass for the team and how the fans were enjoying the show.
Cardiff responded by changing Tyson with Theo Robinson. Moments later and after a fierce tackle on Tom Carroll Dan Harding found himself going into the referee’s notebook. Two more substitutions followed with Derby bringing on Steve Davies for Bailey and Saints replacing Richard Chaplow with Jason Puncheon.
Puncheon then fired wide with his first touch as Saints continued to press forward. With 15 minutes remaining Saints struck again. After some good passing the ball ended up with Lambert who found Tadanari Lee with a lovely pass out to the left by edge of the box. Lee controlled the ball well before firing a simply magnificent unstoppable shot into the top right hand corner past the despairing Fielding.
The stadium roared as the fans went wild and the points were well and truly safe. Cork fired over shortly after, and Ward and Davies had shots which were off target as they sought to find a consolation goal for Derby. The three minutes of extra time were played out and Saints had won with plenty in hand. FT 4-0.
Nigel Adkins 8
Had the team fired up and made some good decisions with his substitutions.
Nigel Clough 6
His team had no answer to Saints as they fell behind but they did keep trying to play.