One point from their last two was a desert for Southampton in this season of plenty and they needed to get back to winning yesterday. That they did so emphatically and with style made it just about the perfect afternoon for their fans.
On his 100th League appearance for the club, Rickie Lambert pushed his tally for the season into double figures with identical penalties, one in each half. If the opener had an element of good fortune there could be no denying Saints' overall supremacy and by the end it could easily have been six or seven. As it is the four they settled for cemented their place at the top and hoisted their goal total to 25 from the first 10 fixtures.
It also triggered eye-catching statistics: a 14th consecutive home win (club record) and the best League start for 52 years. "We played some exceptional footballin the second half and the entertainment value was top drawer," said their manager, Nigel Adkins.
Perhaps sensing some nerves in the opposition after their rare midweek defeat at Cardiff, Watford were lively early on. Chances arrived for Jonathan Hogg and Joe Garner which they were unable to take and it proved costly when Saints found fluency. Steve de Ridder lofted a high ball towards the far post where Lambert disputed ownership with David Mirfin and John Eustace. The ball dropped, the crowd roared, and after a pause, the referee Carl Boyeson pointed to the spot, indicating handball. However television replays indicated it was Lambert who had transgressed. "None of their players appealed and it's one of the strangest decisions I've seen in a long time," said Watford manager, Sean Dyche.
If he was harbouring any guilt, the Liverpudlian did not allow it to distract him from the task in hand, ramming home the spot-kick. Now the League leaders began to display the freedom and movement which has made for such an exhilarating start to their season.
Lambert might have immediately doubled his tally before a moment of quality as the scorer dummied Guly do Prado's cut-back and Adam Lallana struck a fearsome first-timer against the crossbar.
The second goal came via the same road: another De Ridder delivery to the far post and another infringement as Lambert challenged. This time Adrian Mariappa was guilty of a foul and Lambert's spot-kick proved irrestible.
Guly added a third after Lallana had set him up. Number four came from substitute Lee Holmes with a low drive two minutes from time while Richard Chaplow struck a post and also failed to accept the chance that followed a wonderfully flowing build-up.
Southampton (4-4-2): Davis; Richardson, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox; De Ridder (Chaplow, 64), Hammond; Cork (Schneiderlin, 73), Lallana (Holmes, 86); Guly, Lambert.
Watford (4-4-2): Gilmartin; Mariappa, Mirfin, Taylor, Doyley; Yeates (Deeney, 56), Eustace, Hogg (Jenkins, 46), Forsyth; Sordell (Iwelumo, 61), Garner.
Referee Carl Boyeson.
Man of the match Lambert (Southampton).
Match rating 7/10.Reuse content