Saints rattle the Rovers

Saints continue to strive for promotion.

Billy Sharp scored twice against his former club as he fired Southampton NINE points clear of 3rd place in the race for automatic promotion.

The sun was shining, the shorts were making an appearance now winter has gone and with more home fans attending than in any other fixture so far this season the stage was set for a good performance against a team languishing near the foot of the table.

Unfortunately the first half failed to live up to expectations, with neither team able to produce a final ball of any quality. El-Hadji Diouf had a good chance to put Doncaster ahead but took too many touches and his shot was blocked, while Lambert also had what seemed to be a clear penalty waved away.

Diouf, a player so disliked he was called a ‘sewer rat’ by Leeds manager Neil Warnock, seemed keen to play up to his bad boy image. Booked for dissent in the second half, he also seemed to revel in the hatred from the home fans, enjoying blowing kisses when booed.

Southampton started the second half seemingly rejuvenated, with the substitution of Rickie Lambert for Richard Chaplow, and the change of system from a flat midfield four to a diamond, ensuring Saints got hold of the ball more and didn’t resort to pumping it long to Lambert.

This change of tactic resulted in Sharp getting his first Southampton goal since scoring at St Mary’s against Burnley. A good corner from Fox was met firmly by Sharp who directed his header beyond the keeper to send a relieved St Mary’s into raptures.

He could have got his second only minutes later, substitute Chaplow floating a delightful ball to the far post where an unmarked Sharp, 2 yards out, somehow contrived to meet the ball with his shoulder, and watched on as the ball dribbled agonisingly past the far post.

Sharp did not have to wait long to double his and Saints tally though, as a mistake from the Doncaster defense allowed a long ball from the back to bounce all the way through to Sharp, who took his time before placing the ball past Carl Ikeme in the Rovers goal.

A solid win for Southampton was made all the sweeter by West Ham once again dropping points, this time away to Burnley. With seven games to go and a nine point gap to third, a return to the promised land for the first time in seven years is getting closer and closer.

Portsmouth also lost away to Coventry, leaving them six points away from safety. For every Southampton fan the table is looking sweet, and with the derby on the 7th April edging ever closer, the chance for revenge from that game, and that chant from 2005 is one to leave fans salivating.

With the home games against Portsmouth, Reading and Coventry all promising to be exciting, the weather picking up and Saints top of the table, there is no better time to get yourselves down St Mary’s and be part of something beautiful!

Saints: Davis, Butterfield, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox, De Ridder (Barnard 67), Cork, Schneiderlin, Lallana (Hammond 78), Lambert (Chaplow 49), Sharp. Subs (not used): Harding, Martin.

Doncaster: Ikeme, Lockwood, Beye, Chimbonda, Ilunga, Barnes (Brown 79), Gillett, Oster (Robert 90), Coppinger (Bennett 65), Diouf, Piquionne. Subs (not used): Friend, Bagayoko.

Saints continue to strive for promotion.