Opposing View: Southampton

Nigel Adkins
Nigel Adkins

IF there was one game in Rovers’ run in you would have chalked off, it would in all likelihood have been this one.

Championship leaders Southampton are flying, emerging as odds-on favourites for the title in recent weeks as they left West Ham and Reading in their wake.

But Rovers are one of only six sides to beat them in the league this term and they regularly save their best for the top sides.

There is a glimmer of hope also in Southampton’s recent home form.

While St Mary’s was the most fearsome venue in the division for visiting teams earlier this season with the Saints winning their opening ten games, there has been a dip in form more recently.

Four of the five games in which Southampton have dropped points at home have come in the last seven matches.

They do however remain a side who are very difficult to breach on home soil and have kept clean sheets in almost half their games.

Nigel Adkins has stuck with a 4-4-2 formation, deploying two ball winners in central midfield.

The presence of the likes of Morgan Schneiderlin, Dean Hammond or Jack Cork in the middle allows freedom for wide men to create.

The highly-rated Adam Lallana is the architect of much of the Saints’ attacking threat and keeping him quiet is a must if Rovers are to have any success on the South Coast.

When the 23-year-old has been present in the side, Southampton have a goal to game ratio of 2.03 – without him, the ratio is 0.82.

His touch is excellent, particularly under pressure which allows him to beat defenders without blistering pace.

Lallana also chips in with a few goals himself and will look to come inside and shoot.

The Saints’ main source of goals is Rickie Lambert, the Championship’s player of the year and current top scorer.

Pure power, Lambert is a nightmare for defenders and will look to boss the final third of the pitch.

Rovers simply cannot allow Lambert space as they did to Millwall’s Darius Henderson and Andy Keogh in midweek – he is a striker you would back to score if given sight of goal in the box.

He is also a fantastic hold up player and is third in the division’s assist rankings.

One to watch: Rickie Lambert

He may not have had the most blistering of starts to his career but Rickie Lambert is certainly determined to end it on a high.

The Championship’s player of the year has been lethal over the past few seasons and has risen up the football ladder as a result.

Lambert shook off the tag of a poor work ethic and a decent amount of weight when he moved to Southampton from Bristol Rovers in 2009.

And he has not looked back, netting 85 goals in 151 appearances including four hat tricks this term alone.

Head to head:

Played: 17

Rovers wins: 5

Saints wins: 7

Draws: 5

Form guide:

Mar 20, W v Hull (a) 0-2

Mar 17, W v Millwall (a) 2-3

Mar 10, W v Barnsley (h) 2-0

Mar 6, D v Ipswich (h) 1-1

Mar 3, W v Leeds (a) 0-1

Feb 25, W v Watford (a) 0-3