Lambert's good deeds put Saints close to heaven

 

Southampton can move six points clear at the top of the Championship if they beat Bristol City at St Mary's tonight, cementing their status as favourites to regain the Premier League place they lost in 2005.

Promoted from League One last season thanks to a late run of 13 wins in their final 15 games, Nigel Adkins' side have carried on where they left off in an impressive opening half of the season. The big question is whether they can stay the course and follow the example of Norwich City, who reached the top flight this season after back-to-back promotions. Adkins, manager since September 2010, knows what it takes to earn promotion after leading from the front, having done it with Scunthorpe United in League One in 2006-07.

"I said at the start of the campaign that if we can get to January in the top 10 then we'll have an opportunity to win the race," he said. "We've led for the last three months, which shows that we've been consistent and have the hunger to be promoted back to the Premier League. We will be promoted back to the Premier League, but will it be this season? Time will tell."

But if he is cautious in considering the future, Adkins is not surprised by his team's showing so far. "No, we've got good players, good team spirit, and we play football the right way, I believe. We do try to pass the football but we try to do it effectively. There's no point passing for the sake of it."

It has worked best at St Mary's, the 2-2 draw with Blackpool on 10 December being the first match they had failed to win at home since a FA Cup fourth-round defeat by Manchester United in January. Their Achilles' heel is their record on the road, where results, including a 2-0 defeat by this evening's opponents on 26 November, have been average at best. They visit both West Ham and Middlesbrough, their closest pursuers, in the new year, but Adkins insists that performances away from home have been as good as at St Mary's.

"In any competition, when you're playing the leader, you automatically up your game and performance levels, so that has happened," he said. "Teams come to St Mary's with a game plan to unsettle us, but we've done very well [there] and we've done very well away from home – when you analyse the games we've lost, we should have won all four. We had enough chances."

Significantly, one of the defeats, against Doncaster Rovers, came in the absence through injury of striker Rickie Lambert, a £1m signing by Alan Pardew, Adkins' predecessor, from Bristol Rovers in August 2009. The 29-year-old has dispelled doubts about his ability to produce at the higher level with 17 goals in all competitions this season, including two hat-tricks.

Arguably the best testament to the club's prospects was the decision of Adam Lallana, the England Under-21 winger, to sign a new contract last January, claiming that he felt that he could fulfil his ambitions at St Mary's, while other Saints academy products Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, both now with Arsenal, took a short cut to the Premier League.

"You have to play to your strengths, and passing is our strength, and I think we are getting better at it the more comfortable we become," Lallana said. "Rickie up top is an unbelievable target man, but he can play as well, which he has proved this season, and if we need to mix it up we have that option. We haven't picked up as many points away as we'd like but, in an inconsistent league, we have managed to be unbelievably consistent at home."

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week