It was business as usual for Southampton and Millwall yesterday. Rickie Lambert scored his fourth hat-trick of the season as Southampton came from behind to stay top, but Millwall remain without a home League win since Boxing Day and are certain to face investigations after a Southampton coach was hit by an object thrown from the crowd.
"One of our members of staff got pelted with numerous objects and had to have stitches after the second goal," Nigel Adkins, the Southampton manager, said. "I've got photographs of blood streaming down his face. But I don't want to make anything of it."
Millwall were looking good for their first win at The Den in seven games until they conceded two late penalties, both converted by Lambert. The forward tumbled over the prone Millwall captain, Paul Robinson, to earn the first, and within minutes he was handed another after Alan Dunne handled as Millwall defended a corner.
"To get both awarded was harsh on us, particularly [as Southampton were] away from home," Kenny Jackett, the Millwall manager, said. "They were two big decisions and they were somewhat fortunate."
Lambert's triple made it eight goals in five games, and he could have had more if the Millwall goalkeeper, Maik Taylor, had not tipped his 25-yarder against the crossbar after four minutes of his debut on loan. But after 16 minutes Lambert struck from close range after Adam Lallana beat the offside trap and crossed low along the six-yard line.
Millwall hit back seven minutes later when James Henry put Andy Keogh through and his effort came back off the post and in off the unfortunate Jose Fonte. The home side's confidence surged and they were ahead in the 28th minute after Robinson volleyed home from 15 yards when Southampton could not clear a corner, and Robinson was shaping up to be the hero when he nodded Steve De Ridder's shot off the line.
But with six minutes to go, Lambert tumbled over Robinson in a collision that looked accidental, only for the referee, Fred Graham, to signal a penalty. Three minutes later, the ball hit Dunne's armand Graham pointed to the spot again.
"The ref's saying that Darren Ward handballed it, Darren says he didn't," Jackett said. "But it was a terrific performance to come back from a goal down."
Adkins called it "a great character victory for Southampton, a great hat-trick for Rickie. All the accolades he gets are deserved. The first was a clear penalty, Robinson is on the floor and brings Rickie down. And the referee is in a great position [for the second]."
Millwall (4-4-2): Taylor; Dunne, Robinson, Ward, Smith; Henry, Abdou, Wright, Bouazza (Feeney, 89); Henderson (Kane, 76), Keogh.
Southampton (4-4-2): Davis; Richardson, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox; Chaplow (De Ridder, 46), Schneiderlin, Hammond (Sharp, 61), Lallana; Do Prado, Lambert.
Referee: Frederick Graham.
Man of the match: Lambert (Southampton)