Saints condemn Royals

Posted by Chris Rann

In terms of football spectacle, Southampton's 2-0 victory over Reading at the Madejski Stadium will never go down as a classic, but it could well have sealed both sides Premier League fate.

- Keen: Reading season summed up in a single game
- Delaney: Upwardly mobile Saints sink Adkins
- Rann: Saints dethrone Royals

Royals boss Adkins remains realistic
Saints fans, myself included, were worried that the players might play the occasion and not the game (with former Southampton boss Nigel Adkins sitting in the Reading dugout for the first time) and in the opening exchanges it looked like that might be exactly what was going to happen.

It was scrappy from the off, the home side looking like they were the ones who wanted it more, Saints looking a shadow of the side who had beaten Chelsea and Liverpool, misplacing passes and letting the Royals pressure them into mistakes.

In truth Reading were far the better side, Saints struggling to impose their style and tempo on the game, and resorting to quick, long, uncontrolled clearances from the back. When Adam Le Fondre found himself free at the back post, he should have given the hosts the lead but he smashed his volley over the bar.

However, this proved to be the warning shot that Saints needed, as they started to compete. Soon after Hal Robson-Kanu darted into the Saints box and went down under Jos Hooiveld's challenge, the way things have gone for Saints at times this season, it looked like a penalty, but after close inspection it was a fantastic decision by the referee, and a great last-ditch tackle by the big Dutchman.

If Reading were feeling hard done by at this point, they were to feel worse soon after, a brilliant ball over the defence from Rickie Lambert fell between Jay Rodriguez and Adam Federici, it looked like a 'bread and butter' take for the keeper but he hesitated and Rodriguez stabbed home to give Saints the lead. Reading weren't happy with the challenge from the Saints forward, but in truth the keeper lost his bottle and only has himself to blame.

Saints going in with a one goal lead at the break hardly seemed fair on Adkins' new side, but it was almost a nightmare. Buoyed by his first strike, Rodriguez then struck from just outside the box, Federici was beaten and the Englishman only denied by the crossbar. Then it was the turn of Gaston Ramirez, but his shot went wide when it looked easier to score.

Effectively this was the tie over as Reading offered very little in the second half. Saints looked a lot more comfortable and took control of the play and tempo. Creating chance after chance, it looked like Saints might never get the second goal, despite the best efforts of Rickie Lambert, who continuously split the Reading defence, open with a perfectly weighted ball.

It was Adam Lallana who made it academic, the substitute linking well with the ever busy Rodriguez to stroke the ball home. Again, questionable goalkeeping from the static Federici. Saints were cruising now, and it could and should have been more as they walked through the lacklustre Royals at will.

Reading will argue that they should have had a consolation, Le Fondre's head meeting the ball and sending it at goalkeeper Artur Boruc who claimed it but stepped back into this net before throwing the ball out. Replays were inconclusive but Adkins must have felt it wasn't his day.

All too easy for Southampton in the end, Mauricio Pochettino taking his team up to 11th as it stands. The scoreline perhaps says more about the hosts than it does the visitors, a 2-0 victory and a clean sheet for Saints, who barely got out of second gear. Reading looked beaten once Saints took the lead, and Adkins may have his work cut out to install his positive outlook on his players.

Saints look anything but relegation candidates at the moment, and that result may well be enough to see them safe. The camera panned to Saints chairman Nicola Cortese at the final whistle, a man who must be feeling pretty pleased with himself right now!

Keep the faith.

ESPN Conversations