Adkins celebrates leading Saints' charge to the summit

Southampton 4 Birmingham City 1
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The Independent Online

Southampton moved to the top of the Championship in style yesterday. Even with top scorer Rickie Lambert below his best, their attacking power was too much for Birmingham City, although it helped that Kelvin Davis, their goalkeeper, was almost unbeatable at the other end.

Last weekend's victory over Nottingham Forest gave Nigel Adkins' side their best start to a season for 76 years, and yesterday's – their 13th in succession at home – improved that to 103 years. It was also Adkins' 100th victory as a manager, but he refused to repeat his declaration when in League One last season that promotion was the aim.

"It's pleasing just to manage 100 games," he said. "We're very ambitious but we're very respectful of a hard division. There are 15 or 16 teams who think they have a chance. No one's getting carried away. The league table will change, we've just got to keep our standards high."

Chris Hughton, the Birmingham manager, would not use his team's Europa League defeat by Braga on Thursday as an excuse. "We have got a gruelling fixture list, but we had enough fresh players on the pitch," he said. "Southampton were the better team, although the scoreline was a bit harsh."

The game opened in a downpour of biblical intensity, and Davis produced the first of a number of fines saves to parry Chris Wood's skidding, deflected free kick. But as the weather improved, so did Southampton, and they took the lead when Steve Caldwell was ruled to have pushed Lambert at a corner kick, Lambert picking himself up to convert the penalty. "It was a soft penalty and gave them momentum," Hughton said.

And how. Southampton's confidence and their football suddenly flowed. Guly Do Prado, on the turn, half-volleyed home Frazer Richardson's cross from the right, and Richardson was the provider again after 34 minutes, pulling the ball back for Adam Lallana to score with a first-time shot from six yards.

Davis stopped another free kick from Wood just before the interval but it was third time lucky for the New Zealand forward three minutes into the second half, and now it was the visitors' turn to enjoy a boost in self-belief. Stephen Carr swerved a shot against a post with the outside of his right foot before Marlon King brought another exceptional save from Davis, who flung himself to his right to palm away the forward's shot from 15 yards.

But the fightback was halted when the outstanding Lallana sent substitute Richard Chaplow through to slide home Southampton's fourth, although there was still time for Davis to save again from Wood, and Jean Beausejour to miss a sitter from a yard out.

Southampton (4-4-2): Davis; Richardson, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox; Do Prado (Chaplow, 72), Hammond , Cork (Schneiderlin, 81), Lallana (De Ridder, 83); Connolly, Lambert.Substitutes not used Bialkowski, Martin.

Birmingham City (4-4-2): Myhill; Carr, Davies, Caldwell, Ridgewell; Burke, Spector (Elliott, 74), Gomis, Beausejour; Wood, King (Rooney, 74).

Substitutes not used Doyle, Murphy, Redmond.

Referee D Whitestone (Northamptonshire).

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