Barnard leads the rout
Saints 5, Walsall 1
It was only a few weeks short of 50 years since Saints last scored five in the third tier of English football, but that was some team: over 100 goals, mostly from Reeves and O’Brien, took the title that season.
On paper, though, the current line-up should come close to matching them in ability, but we remain some way off even 6th spot, taking the 10 point penalty into account as well.
The last 5-goal victims were Accrington Stanley but their defensive shortcomings were matched in 2010 by a Walsall team who actually took an early lead through a fine free kick from Richards.
Saints hit back strongly and the visitors only managed to preserve their advantage for 5 minutes thanks to good goalkeeping and a goal-line clearance. Then Lambert set up Puncheon for an equaliser and the floodgates finally looked to be opened when Barnard followed up as Hammond’s header came back off the bar, but he was offside.
Lambert was key to Southampton’s threat as he dominated McDonald, the huge but strangely static Walsall centre back. It was important that Saints converted this into goals and Barnard finally scored from close range after a bit of a scramble. His second soon after was more aesthetic with a shot into the top corner and he might have had a third before the break after Lambert went for subtlety rather than power with a free kick by feeding Lallana whose cross created panic. Saints took their foot off the gas thereafter and the crowd’s attention turned towards cup finals and winding up petitions, but it still took a goal-line clearance and some unpunished wrestling on the impressive Puncheon for us to be denied further opportunities.
Lambert eventually got just reward for his efforts after the hour but both he and Barnard were withdrawn. With N’Diaye and Antonio up front Saints might have been accused of trying to walk the ball into the net, albeit at pace, and it was something they eventually managed to do: Lallana was ignored on the left as he finished a move that he had started on the right by tapping in N’Diaye’s cross.
LSSC Man of the Match: Rickie Lambert. A goal and an assist don’t tell the full story.
Alan Pardew: “It’s about performances and the stats don’t lie, we are putting together a run as good as anybody’s and the fans are being absolutely brilliant with us.”
06 Jaidi (Thomas 72)
07 Lambert (Antonio 83)
17 Barnard (Papa Waigo 64)