Millwall 2-3 Saints
Southampton were without Lee for the trip to Millwall, but there was even more of a surprise in the opposition’s line-up, with 40 year old ex-Saint Maik Taylor making his Lions’ debut.
Taylor was soon tested by Lambert who crashed a shot from some distance against the bar. Rickie managed to hit the bar again on 16 minutes, however this time from closer to goal after Schneiderlin’s cross so the ball found its way into the net.
It seemed that Saints were well on their way, but suddenly Millwall were back in it with Keogh somehow finding himself clear on the right – his shot beat Davis but came back off the near post only to hit Fonte and go into the goal as the defender ran back. A setback began to approach a crisis a few minutes later as the home side won a succession of headers at a corner before the ball fell to centre back Robinson who fired into the net from just inside the area.
Chaplow had a difficult first half on the ball so he was replaced by DeRidder, and immediately the sub fed Lallana whose shot was cleared off the line by Robinson’s diving header. It was to be a false dawn, though. Chaplow, for all his faults, had been involved in the game as much as any player, and he seemed to be missed as Saints forgot all about the patient passing game that had taken them to the top; instead players started to attempt low percentage 40 yard balls that usually gave away possession.
The hosts hadn’t had a home success since defeating silly old Pompey on Boxing Day, but it was looking increasingly likely that they would win to deny Saints top spot. Then Lambert’s progress across rather than towards goal was halted by a clumsy and foul tackle, and a fine penalty gave Taylor no chance.
Millwall weren’t too happy about that, but they were livid at referee Graham’s second penalty decision five minutes later -and with 89 showing on the clock. Replays show that he immediately signalled handball from a corner, but the pictures weren’t all that clear about whose hand it was, or even if contact was made. I’m grateful to the newsletter editor for pointing out that the Saints web site has a still from another angle that seems to show Dunne about to handle, but there are other shots that show Hooiveld’s hand raised as well. As we all know, the referee’s decision is final – as is Lambert’s finishing from the spot, this time to complete a club record* fourth League hat trick of the season and a crucial win that had looked unlikely.
LSSC Man of the Match: Rickie Lambert. As has been noted three times before, a hat trick will normally win it.
* For the record, three League hat tricks per season had been achieved by Bill Rawlings (3 times!), Dick Rowley, Derek Reeves, George O’Brien, Ron Davies and Phil Boyer. You can add Martin Chivers and Mike Channon to the list if you include Cup games, but that basis takes Reeves and Davies to four as well.
14 Hammond (Sharp – 63′ )
18 Chaplow (De Ridder – 46′ )
20 Lallana (Cork – 90′ )