With the end of season pressure building for the teams fighting for promotion Southampton faced a side in Doncaster that were involved in a fight just as important at the other end of the table.
Saints brought in Danny Butterfield, Steve De Ridder and ex Doncaster striker Billy Sharp for the game with Sharp facing his previous club for the first time. Lee Barnard was brought in to the matchday squad with a place on the bench.
Saints started brightly enough but the first real chance fell to Frederic Piquionne who headed a glorious opportunity wide from 6 yards. Moments later and Jos Hooiveldt came to Saints rescue when he cleared the ball from Piquionne with a timely tackle.
Saints then swept upfield with a sweeping move that saw De Ridder testing Doncaster keeper Carl Ikeme with a strong shot which the keeper fumbled before grabbing it safely. Doncaster were giving Saints a few moments of concern and on 16 minutes Piquionne found Diouf but he found Jack Cork making a great blocking tackle to deny him.
Slowly Saints began to add more pressure on the Doncaster defence. Lambert was felled in the box by Beye but penalty appeals were turned down. The Jose Fonte put a beautiful threw ball through for Billy Sharp but he sent his effort wide.
Doncaster were defending stoutly as crosses were being sent one after another into their box. With a five man midfield helping to combat the Saints attack chances were few. De Ridder had a shot deflected and Sharp had a header from a Fox cross but no really clear cut chances were being made.
Inside the last ten minutes De Ridder was blatantly barged over by Adam Lockwood after he had waltzed past Diouf to win a free kick. To many people’s surprise Lockwood only received a yellow card when a red looked the likely outcome.
The first half ended with no score and Doncaster must have felt pleased with their success in keeping out the prolific Saints attack.
The second half had no sooner begun when Rickie Lambert appeared to receive an injury and was immediately replaced with Richard Chaplow. Lambert had received a knock from a Lockwood challenge near the end of the first half and had tried unsuccessfully to run it of.
Saints moved De Ridder inside to partner Sharp as the searched for the elusive goal that would set them on their way. De Ridder made a chance for Sharp after a good pass from Lallana, but the defence managed to clear and then on 58 minutes Saints made the breakthrough.
Good work from Chaplow won Saints a corner which was sent in by Daniel Fox. Billy Sharp rose above the defence to head the ball home and the Saints fans erupted with glee. Seconds later and another cross into the box was met by Sharp but his header ended up going wide.
fter the goal, substitutions were made by both teams with Coppinger replaced by Kyle Bennett for the visitors, before Lee Barnard came replaced De Ridder with just over 20 minutes to play.
With the crowd roaring the team on Saints searched for the comfort of a second goal. When it came fate declared that Doncaster would suffer at the feet of their former striker. Sharp challenged Beye strongly and won the duel before running on and beating Ikeme to double his tally and Saints lead. 2-0 and now the game appeared to be safe.
Saints brought Dean Hammond on for Adam Lallana and a Chaplow effort soon after made by some good closing down from Sharp and time was up. Not vintage Southampton but in the end another three points won and closer to the end of season target. The most pleasing thing for Saints was they way the team played after Lambert had been forced off through injury.
Nigel Adkins 8
Yet again Nigel had the team prepared well and his substitutions all appeared to work.
Dean Saunders 7
Did well in the beginning but had no answer to Saints once we had taken the lead.
‘I’m grateful that I got my chance today and I’m glad on a personal level but also for the team because I’ve played in a winning team and scored goals.’