Npower Championship
Southampton 4-0 Coventry



Southampton get ready for the party with a thumping victory as the players surround Jose Fonte who scored the second goal


By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor from St Marys Stadium 

Southampton returned to the Premier League after a seven-year exile as they destroyed a demoralised and youthful Coventry side to secure second place in the Championship on the final day of the season.

The Saints knew that their fate was under their own control with a win required to take them up to the top flight and they managed that as they comprehensively swept aside the relegated Sky Blues who were injury-ravaged and had nothing to play for. Billy Sharp claimed the first after Lallana's shot hit the side of his foot before Jose Fonte's header doubled the lead. Second half goals from Jos Hooiveld and Adam Lallana sealed the deal as West Ham had to settle for a play-off position in third place despite their 2-1 victory over Hull City at Upton Park.

Saints boss Nigel Adkins- who had experienced two promotions with former club Scunthorpe as a manager- named two changes to his starting line-up from the 2-1 defeat at Middlesbrough last Saturday with Morgan Schneiderlin coming in for his first start since the South Coast derby draw with Portsmouth at the start of the month to replace former Coventry midfielder Jack Cork who was on the bench. Richard Chaplow missed out with a hamstring injury sustained at the Riverside Stadium with his place going to Guly Do Prado.

The visitors, relegated to League One last weekend following a lacklustre 2-0 home defeat against Doncaster Rovers, made two alterations to the team with manager Andy Thorn missing right-back Richard Keogh who was sent-off last Saturday with 17-year old Jordan Willis coming in for his full first-team debut. Carl Baker replaced Clive Platt, who was on the bench, in the other change.


Coventry have only won one game away from home in the league this season- last month against Hull City- and finish bottom of the Championship's "away" table with seventeen defeats on the road.

There was plenty of early possession for the Saints who were looking to get their job done with the buoyant crowd helping to settle any potential nerves the players had beforehand. It was the ideal scenario and fixture for the home side needing a win against a side already relegated at a ground where they have lost just three of their previous twenty two games in the league this season. The flags and bunting were out with the record attendance at St Marys of 32,363 expecting a promotion party at the end of it.

A quiet start was almost spoilt by a Coventry opening as the first half chance was created at the Southampton end with Jos Hooiveld misjudging the bounce from a long ball sent forward by young defender Jordan Clarke. Cody McDonald alone upfront for the Sky Blues almost benefitted from Carl Baker's cutback but it was a little too obvious as Jose Fonte easily intercepted. Moments later, the Championship's goalkeeper of the year Kelvin Davis was called into action from the visitors' captain Gary McSheffrey as the former Birmingham winger digged a shot out which the Saints stopper pushed around the post.


Top goalscorer Rickie Lambert (pictured) is mobbed by the 32,000 Saints supporters present after the final whistle

Coventry, who lost 4-2 in the corresponding meeting between the teams at the Ricoh Arena, were making early inroads but two quick fire goals swung the match in the favour of their hosts. The opening goal arrived on 16 minutes with Billy Sharp- who has scored eight times in fourteen appearances since joining the club in January- diverting Adam Lallana's volley from the edge of the box past goalkeeper Joe Murphy to delight the home fans. The second came just three minutes later with Jose Fonte steering in a header with no-one picking him up from former Coventry man Danny Fox's corner for his first goal of the season to give his side the cushion they would have liked. An edgy start at the beginning but the goals ended any doubts of Southampton's nerves getting the better of them as news filtered through from Upton Park.

Both skippers had to be withdrawn in the first period through injury with Gary McSheffrey leaving the field with a muscle strain while Dean Hammond, struggling for several minutes with a calf problem, was taken off with former Chelsea academy player Cork coming onto ensure he has featured in every Championship match this season.

Lallana saw a goalbound effort superbly blocked by Willis after a great sequence of passing from back to front as Butterfield's cross scraped clear by Cranie but only to the influential midfielder who took a touch to steady himself and saw it come back off the young Coventry defender- who had made just two previous substitute appearances.


Southampton are top scorers in the Championship this season with 85 goals while eighteen of their twenty-six league victories have come against sides in the bottom half of the table.

Saints' relegation from the Premier League back in 2005 triggered the demise which saw them enter administration and fall to the third tier of the English footballing pyramid- it was plain sailing for them in this one as they dictated towards the end of the half but the visitors showed glimpses and still mathematically in the game but were giving the ball away too cheaply. Southampton were in the mood though and knew they were 45 minutes away from the Premier League.

Early in the second period, Guly Do Prado headed over from Danny Butterfield's centre while Lambert's rising drive teed up by Sharp on the edge of the box went wide of the target after more tidy football and swift movement making the pitch wide. The Saints were wearing the young Sky Blues down while sending them down to the lower division with a whimper.

The game was going the way of the home team and the scoreline had a more comfortable look to it once the other central defender Jos Hooiveld, who has been a solid performer since joining from Celtic in the summer, added a third after Fox's corner whipped in found Sharp whose shot on the turn came off a defender and the rebound was seized upon by Hooiveld from close range. Nigel Adkin's side were in cruise control mindful that promotion was theirs. The Saints were marching into the top division in style, going up with a bang and further cemented their place in second ahead of West Ham- who made sure the race for automatic promotion alongside Reading went to the final match after defeating Leicester on Monday night- by making it 4-0 after 63 minutes.

Championship player of the season Rickie Lambert- top scorer with 31 league goals- won the header at the backpost against Chris Hussey to feed Lallana who guided the ball into the roof of the net as the supporters went ballistic cheering on their side. There was plenty of time for more punishment for the Sky Blues, who have scored just 13 away league goals this season. Although it was the aforementioned visitors who almost brought a goal back but once again Davis- who was relegated from the top flight with Sunderland earlier in his career- thwarted them keeping out Carl Baker's fizzing shot with a strong parry.

Lambert sidefooted straight into Murphy's gloves before his compatriot Lallana received a standing ovation as he left the field to be replaced by Jason Puncheon on 82 minutes. A mass exodus evoked on the sounding of the final whistle a few seconds early by referee Anthony Taylor as the supporters swarmed onto the pitch as Southampton savoured the moment of gaining automatic promotion along with Reading as West Ham are left to fight it out against Cardiff City in the play-off semi-final in a bid to make a swift return to the top flight themselves. The promotion party will go long into the night for a side who have had two memorable years while for Coventry an end to their eleven consecutive Championship seasons as both teams involved in this match now head in different directions.

Adam Higgins
The Football Site- Chief Football Editor

"Southampton deservedly promoted to the Premier League after an easy win over a patched up and young Coventry side full of academy products. Nigel Adkins has worked wonders this season with the squad relatively kept from last season's League One triumph. He is a great tactician and preparer of a team- just to think he started out as a physio. He and the team deserve their crack at the top flight. Their home form this season has been near to emmaculate which in comparison with West Ham's proves on paper that their place in second is justified. They score goals for fun through their style of play and well done to the Saints. The game was a formality as soon as the first goal went in. For Coventry, it is a summer of rebuilding ahead of a difficult season in League One for them." 


Thursday 30th August 2012

UEFA Europa League



Liverpool 1-1 Hearts                      KO 20:05pm           (HT 0-0)            (2-1 Aggregate)

Suarez 88      Templeton 85


Liverpool:  25 Reina- 5/10, 34 Kelly- 7/10, 23 Carragher- 7/10, 37 Skrtel- 8.5/10, 14 Henderson 6/10 (Borini 76- 3/10), 8 Gerrard (C)- 8/10, 24 Allen- 7.5/10, 33 Shelvey- 6.5/10, 19 Downing- 7/10, 7 Suarez- 8.5/10, 50 Morgan- 6.5/10 (Sterling 62- 4/10).

Subs not used:  1 Jones, 2 Johnson, 3 Enrique, 5 Agger, 16 Coates.

Booked:      None


Hearts:  1 MacDonald- 7/10, 4 McGowan- 6.5/10, 5 Barr- 6.5/10, 6 Webster- 7/10, 3 Grainger- 7/10, 26 Zaliukas- 7/10, 33 Paterson- 6.5/10, 7 Templeton- 7/10, 10 Taouil- 6/10, 9 Sutton- 6/10 (Driver 66- 4/10), 18 Novikovas- 6/10 (Carrick 75- 3/10)

Subs not used:  31 Hamilton, 8 Robinson, 15 Holt, 19 McGowan, 29 McHattie

Booked:      Barr (81), Grainger (85)


My Man of the Match:     Luis Suarez (Liverpool)- Rating 8.5/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:    Pepe Reina)- Rating 5/10



Referee: Anthony Taylor (Manchester)- 9.5/10
Attendance: 32,363



Match Facts

Possession: Southampton- 58%                 Coventry- 42%

Shots: Southampton- 13                   Coventry- 7

Shots on target: Southampton- 8                  Coventry- 5

Shots off target: Southampton- 5                  Coventry- 2

Corners: Southampton- 3                    Coventry- 9

Fouls: Southampton- 5                      Coventry- 2

Offside: Southampton- 0                     Coventry- 4

Assists: Southampton- Lallana, Fox, Sharp, Lambert                Coventry- None



Southampton manager Nigel Adkins

"A lot of people have put a lot of hard work in here and they have got the result of that hard work today - the players deserve all the plaudits they'll get from everybody including all the pundits. They have a fantastic bunch of lads throughout the season and showed a lot of togetherness to be in this position and we cannot wait for August to come along. Southampton are back in the Premier League and I'm a happy man. This club deserves it so much for the troubled times they have been through in the last few years. Back-to-back promotions is such a fantastic achievement and we can be stupendously proud of the last two years. St Marys is a Premier League ground and these fans have been incredible and when they rushed onto the pitch that was just sensational and the scenes at the end were terrific. We are not sorry for West Ham of course missing out- it was all about doing our job today and getting the win. I feel sorry for Andy (Thorn), it has been a difficult season for them and we wish them well for next season in League One."

Click here for the thoughts of former manager Lawrie McMenemy on Saints promotion

Click here to watch the jubilant celebrations at the end from the Southampton supporters

Click here to view QPR's promotion party from last season after clinching title



Coventry City manager Andy Thorn

"We've got to regroup for next season now, no-one gave us a hope at the start of the game and they have been proven right. We know it was going to be a hard game with Southampton determined and they had second place to play for with West Ham chasing them. Nigel (Adkins) and their lads have had a terrific year and deserve promotion and on behalf of all of us I congratulate them for their success. We haven't been good enough to be truthfully honest all season, we played well in the first half here and the lack of squad depth has really showed this campaign and has been the story of the season. I cannot say we deserve to be in this division next year because we don't but we can maintain a degree of pride. Our away form has been poor this year. When our captain Gary (McSheffrey) came off we had to put Will Roberts who has never played before for us it was an uphill task. Southampton deserved to win the game but I thought the scoreline was a little unfair reflection on the efforts that the lads put in but our achilles heel was some poor defending. It is all about getting back to the Championship for us next season. We will be looking to get some strength in numbers over the summer."


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