The Johnstone's Paint Trophy is not the most significant honour Southampton have won in their 125-year history but for the 44,000 Saints fans who turned Wembley into a sea of red and white yesterday this was a triumph to savour. Alan Pardew's men were way too good for a disappointing Carlisle side as they secured Southampton's first major trophy since Bobby Stokes' goal beat Manchester United at the old Wembley Stadium in the 1976 FA Cup final.
A crowd of 73,476, the biggest of the weekend in Britain, witnessed what the south-coast faithful hope will be the start of a new era after five years of turmoil following relegation from the Premier League.
The substantial investment by a new owner, the Swiss billionaire Markus Liebherr, has breathed new life into the Saints, who have not given up hope of winning a place in the League One play-offs, despite their 10-point deduction for going into administration last year.
Carlisle are only one place behind Southampton in the table, but the difference here was more akin to the 334 miles that separates the two clubs. Carlisle defended poorly and they lacked a cutting edge on the rare occasions when they threatened in the Southampton penalty area. "We made individual errors for their goals and we weren't good enough in the two boxes," Greg Abbott, their manager, admitted afterwards.
Southampton's attacking class was evident from the start. Rickie Lambert, a £1m signing from Bristol Rovers, and Ndiaye Papa Waigo, a Senegalese striker on loan from Fiorentina, were always lively, Michail Antonio was a constant threat down the right flank and Adam Lallana provided intelligent support from the left.
The experienced Jose Fonte and Rahdi Jaidi were rock-solid at the centre of the Southampton defence. Matthew Robson and Chris Keogh, who was Carlisle's best performer, provided an occasional threat from the flanks, but Abbott's men were in retreat from the moment Peter Murphy's rush of blood presented Southampton with the lead in the 14th minute.
As Murphy struggled to reach Antonio's cross the defender flicked out a hand to keep the ball away from Lambert. Murphy was booked and the prolific Lambert stepped up to score from the penalty spot.
Carlisle enjoyed a brief spell of pressure towards the end of the first half, Ian Harte hitting the bar with a header and Marc Bridge-Wilkinson volleying narrowly over, but after 43 minutes Southampton scored again. Antonio's long throw was flicked on by Lambert to the unmarked Lallana, who headed home from six yards.
Within four minutes of the restart the contest was effectively over. Lambert, having exchanged passes with Papa Waigo, crossed from the left, though defender Evan Horwood should have had no problem dealing with the centre. Instead the ball bounced off his knee and Papa Waigo was on hand to score after Antonio's first effort was blocked.
Having played a big part in the first three goals, Antonio got on the score sheet himself on the hour. The flying winger, who is on loan from Reading, found space on the edge of the penalty area and fired a left-foot shot into the bottom corner.
Carlisle, to their credit, never gave up. Joe Anyinsah scuffed horribly from eight yards out when set up by Keogh, but after 83 minutes the 20,000 supporters from Cumbria finally had something to celebrate when Gary Madine headed home Robson's cross.
Pardew, who targeted promotion within two years when he took over last summer, did not feel the final had been the most attractive of matches, but said it had been important to win a trophy because his employers were seeking immediate success,. "It wasn't about aesthetics today," he said. "It was about a winning mentality."
Carlisle United (4-4-1-1): Collin; Keogh, Murphy, Harte, Horwood; Bridge-Wilkinson (Anyinsah, 61), Clayton, Thirlwell (Taiwo, 79), Robson; Kavanagh (Madine, 74); Dobie. Substitutes not used: Pidgeley (gk), Kane.
Southampton (4-4-2): Davis; Harding, Fonte, Jaidi (Perry, 89), Mills; Antonio, Hammond, Wotton (Connolly, 85), Lallana; Papa Waigo (Gillett, 76), Lambert. Substitutes not used: Bialkowski (gk), James.
Referee: S Mathieson (Cheshire).
Booked: Carlisle Murphy, Keogh.
Man of the match: Antonio.
Attendance: 73,476.Reuse content