Saintly Lambert strikes again

Southampton 2 Tranmere Rovers 0

It may have taken a few months, but the Saints are finally on the march. Yesterday's win against a dismal Tranmere extended Southampton's unbeaten run to five games – and for once somebody other than Ricky Lambert scored.

The game was billed as the battle of the ex-physios, given that both Saints manager Nigel Adkins and his opposite number at Tranmere, Les Parry, had both carried the magic sponge before moving up to the top job. And it was Parry who was left nursing a kick to the teeth after his Rovers were completely outplayed by the home side.

Lambert, who until yesterday had scored every goal at St Mary's this season, got the first, before Adam Lallana followed up with the second just before the hour mark.

Substitute Lee Barnard – asurprise inclusion in Adkins' squad given the fact that he is on bail for his alleged involvement in a bar brawl in the early hours of last Sunday morning – could have had a hat-trick of his own if fortune had gone his way.

Lambert may be carrying a little bit of timber these days – Adkins admits that he is doing his best to get the forward trim – but his ability in front of goal cannot be denied. He had two chances in the first five minutes, first failing to get on the end of Guy Do Prado's through-ball then heading against the crossbar.

But those two opportunities proved to be warm-ups for his fifth goal of the season, headed home two minutes before half time.

It was just reward for Southampton's enterprise and for Tranmere it was just deserts as they had mustered just one shot on target during the entire first half.

Adkins said: "The wheels are in motion and we are moving forward. There is a momentum about ourselves and there is a belief. I like to think we play football in the way that I want, to pass the ball about, but also with a purpose not just for the sake of passing it about.

"Ricky is getting fitter and fitter and that is important for us. He could have had many more, because he hit the bar and had one saved."

Adkins defended his decision to field Barnard in the squad with last week's incident hanging over him. Apart from how supporters would view Adkins naming a man in the squad who had been out until 2.45am last Sunday, the forward had a cast on his right arm from a cut apparently sustained in the brawl in Southampton's city centre and was unable to train until Thursday.

His manager said: "I have to make sure that I name a team to win a game of football. I was happy to play Lee and he could have scored three himself. I prepare a team to win games of football. And I watched Lee train on Thursday and I decided it was right to name him in the team."

Tranmere manager Parry celebrated a year in charge yesterday, but he admits his injury-hit squad is there for the taking against well-resourced sides like Southampton.

He said: "The likes of Ricky Lambert would have looked at our team and seen all the kids in there and thought 'hey, happy birthday'."