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Match Report: Southampton 4-0 Coventry City (Saints Fan's Perspective)

Sunday 29th April 2012
Southampton ended a seven-year exile from the top flight in emphatic fashion, putting four past relegated Coventry to seal a return to the Premier League on the final day of the Championship season.

Nigel Adkins' Saints side went into the final day knowing that should they better, or even match, West Ham's result they would be playing Premier League football. As it went, the Saints eased to victory to bring closure to seven years of life in the Football League since relegation in 2005.

On a record breaking day at St. Mary's, with 32,363 attending the final game of the season, Southampton turned in a stellar performance to see the side across the finish line. Adkins made two changes to his side, with Guly Do Prado and Morgan Schneiderlin replacing Richard Chaplow and Jack Cork. Coventry City also made two changes, with Carl Baker and Jordan Willis replacing Clive Platt and Richard Keogh.

Saints set about hunting down the victory from the kick-off, with Do Prado denied a corner by the officials after some good attacking-play. Adkins side seeked to get the ball down and play from the off, but Coventry stifled the hosts in the early stages with a succession of good breakaways. But in fact it was Coventry who had the first clear shot on goal, with Kelvin Davis denying Gary McSheffrey's rising near post strike. Saints' defence went walkabout, and Baker found himself in on goal shortly after, but could only slash his shot wide of the target.

The home side finally got their noses in front when Jose Fonte intercepted the ball, and went on a mazy run, dodging several tackles. Eventually he passed the ball out to Do Prado, who gently lifted the ball back to the edge of the area, where Adam Lallana volleyed home, albeit via a crucial touch from Billy Sharp. The home fans were sent into raptures, as Premiership dreams re-entered their sights once more.

And the raucous home crowd would not be made to wait long for a crucial second goal either, as Fonte notched up his first goal of the season from a corner, his diving header bouncing up off of the turf and looping over the Coventry defender on the line.

Davis had to remain alert, and turned behind Baker's low strike at the near post. Dean Hammond seeked out Sharp, who was denied by a last gasp challenge courtesy of Oliver Norwood. A confident and relaxed atmosphere continued to grow inside St Mary's. McSheffrey's injury further dented any Coventry hopes, having to be replaced by debutant William Roberts. It was almost a mirror image when Dean Hammond was replaced by Jack Cork after suffering from pain in his lower back after a challenge.

Butterfield pulled a ball across the face of the goal, and it could be poked only as far as Lallana, but 17-year-old Jordan Willis denied his shot from point-blank range. Southampton went in at the break at 2-0, knowing that barring a catastrophic second half, the Premier League was within touching distance.

Shaun Jeffers was called upon as Gael Bigirimana was withdrawn by Andy Thorn at the start of the second half, whilst Nigel Adkins opted for no changes. The record attendance of St. Mary's roared the side on, and it could've been 3-0 shortly after the break, with Do Prado and Cork combining, but Do Prado headed over the bar from the ball in. Some more link-up play this time allowed Lambert a shot at goal, but his powered shot was always rising and flew wide of the left post.

A Danny Fox corner provided Saints' third as Sharp's shot fell to the feet of Hooiveld, who fired home his 8th goal of the season from centre-back. If there were any nerves left in St. Mary's before hand, they were gone now. Supporters broke into spontaneous chants of "We are Premier League!" whilst singing the praises of heroes past and present.

Just four minutes later Rickie Lambert headed across the face of goal and while Sharp couldn't get the ball over the line, Lallana was on hand to finish from close range by firing into the top of the net. Southampton were coasting back to the Premier League, ending 7 years of absence, administration and points deductions. The demons were being exorcised one by one.

Willis left the field of play with cramp as Joe Henderson came on to make his debut for the Sky Blues, who continued to vociferously support their "SISU Out" campaign. Baker took aim again, but once more found Davis one obstacle too many. Billy Sharp, who has been absolutely vital during the run-in for the Saints, was given a standing ovation as he was replaced by Steve De Ridder with a quarter of an hour to go. The style of the game changed, as Saints began to stroke the ball around, adding up the pass count, much to the delight of the home fans.

Lambert played a one-two with Cork, but the pressure of the chasing defender saw Lambert's shot comfortably find the goalkeeper's arms. Lallana was the final man to be substituted by Adkins to breathtaking noise and celebration, the academy graduate helping to lead Saints back to where they had once been regular fixtures. Jason Puncheon replaced Lallana for the final period of play and combined well in a period of short passing with Do Prado.

Anticipation was rife as Saints fans filed down to the front of the stands in preparation of a pitch invasion, and then the moment came. The pitch was swarmed by supporters young and old, finally ending the years of hurt and pain as the club returned to where it had once stood. The party in Southampton was sure to continue long into the night, you could almost hear the popping of corks on champagne bottles across the city.

Man of the Match - Guly Do Prado.  This was a hard one as a lot of players gave their all today. Realistically all of them gave what they could, but Guly was outstanding. Much maligned, the Brazilian showed tremendous work-ethic and technical skill, as evidenced by his involvement in two of the four goals. A fine all-action display, from getting stuck and playing beautiful passes to darting runs and an endeavour to chase. Do Prado was excellent. A notable mention is also deserved for Jose Fonte. The Portuguese was somewhat of a villain for a clumsy foul in Middlesbrough, but he hit back superbly with some great attacking and defensive play, it was great to see him finally get the goal he has chased all season too.

Southampton: Davis; Butterfield, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox; Do Prado, Hammond, Schneiderlin, Lallana; Sharp, Lambert.

Coventry City: Murphy; Clarke, Willis, Cranie, Hussey; Baker, Norwood, Bigirimana, McSheffrey; Thomas, McDonald.

Attendance: 32,363 (Record Attendance)

Connor Armstrong

Total articles: 8

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