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21:40 2th March 2010


Town's impressive unbeaten streak in the League came to an end at St. Mary's Stadium this evening with a comprehensive defeat against a strong Southampton side.

Goals from Rickie Lambert, Lee Barnard, Jason Puncheon, Dean Hammond and substitute Papa Waigo N'Diaye gave the Saints a comprehensive victory and inflicted Town's first defeat in twelve League games on a rare off-night for Lee Clark's side.

The home side created an early chance in just the second minute after Tom Clarke was forced to clear the ball behind for a corner; the deep delivery fell on the head of Southampton Captain Dean Hammond at the back post, but he could only direct his effort wide of Smithies' left-hand post.

The game had begun at a frenetic pace, with battles developing between players all over the pitch. Southampton's centre-back pairing of Jaidi and Fonte looked strong in the air, but Rhodes and Novak were giving as good as they got in the physical battle.

Town, in their traditional blue and white stripes, had obviously done their homework and were well aware of the aerial threat that striker Rickie Lambert posed. At every opportunity, the big frame of Antony Kay was getting in front of the former Bristol Rovers forward to negate any balls aimed at his head - with Peter Clarke in close attendance behind.

Lee Clark's men launched their first attack of note in the 13th minute, but Rhodes' knock-down intended for strike partner Novak in the area was cleared behind by Tunisian international Jaidi. From the resulting corner, Roberts had a second chance to deliver after his first effort was cleared back out wide but Peter Clarke could only nod his looping cross wide of the far post under heavy pressure.

The Saints were back on the attack moments later, but winger Adam Lallana's 25 yard drive was straight down the throat of Alex Smithies in goal.

GOAL - The home side took the lead in the 16th minute after a short period of pressure, with danger man Rickie Lambert getting the goal. The Saints forced a throw-in deep into Town territory down the left side and when Hammond's cross was cleared by Dean Heffernan, winger Jason Puncheon picked up the loose ball; the former MK Dons loanee got around the outside of Tom Clarke and stood up a great cross to the back post, where the striker headed a powerful effort past Smithies and in off the underside of the crossbar,

Town tried to fight back immediately, forcing a couple of corners down the right side. The second delivery from Gary Roberts was flicked to the back post by a defensive header, where Lee Novak acrobatically sent an overhead kick towards goal - however, home custodian Kelvin Davis showed great reactions to stick out his left hand and divert the ball away from goal.

BOOKING - Tom Clarke was shown his second yellow card of the season in the 23rd minute for flattening winger Lallana down the right touchline.

Lee Clark switched Roberts and Pilkington to the right and left flanks respectively midway through the first-half to try and get his side back into the game, but it was the home side that doubled their advantage in the 25th minute.

GOAL - Former Southend striker Lee Barnard extended Southampton's lead with another header from close range less than ten minutes after the opening goal. The free-kick from Tom Clarke's foul was cleared to the left corner of the pitch, where somehow midfielder Hammond wormed past Dean Heffernan on the touchline to put in a good near post cross; it looked like the Town defenders had switched off slightly, because Barnard was the quickest to react to power a header past Smithies and in off the underside of the bar, just as his strike partner had earlier.

The home side were impressive in the first half and continued to press the Terriers after the second goal. The green-booted Barnard turned impressively on the ball inside the penalty area after receiving a pass from full-back Harding in the 34th minute, but sent his drive wide of the far post.

GOAL - It didn't matter moments later when Jason Puncheon netted an impressive third goal in the same minute. A poor clearance from Town's defence allowed the winger to pick up the ball and advance into the left edge of the area; he ran straight at Peter Clarke and after a clever body swerve, he switched the ball onto his favoured left foot and placed an accurate shot onto the inside of the right-hand post and into the goal.

Alex Smithies pulled off an outstanding save to deny Lambert a stunning second goal in the 38th minute. Southampton were awarded a free-kick to the right of goal after Pilkington tripped Lallana and although the ball was around 30 yards from goal, the striker fancied his chances. He sent a piledriver of a shot towards the top right corner of Smithies' goal and the young 'keeper needed every inch of his 6' 3" frame to get a hand to the ball and push it onto and over the crossbar.

Town had a chance to gain a valuable goal back before the half-time interval. Kay picked out Pilkington on the left flank with a good cross-field pass and the winger's cross found its way to Jordan Rhodes at the back post, but the striker could only divert a tame header straight at the goalkeeper as a deflection had taken the pace off the delivery.

Indeed, Smithies needed to be at his best in the final minute of the game to keep the score down to three. 'Keeper Davis found the chest of Lambert with a massive clearance in the final moments and the striker brilliantly picked out Barnard with his lay-off, but Alex got down well to his right side to push away his powerful volley from the edge of the box before recovering and forcing Lallana to put the follow-up wide by narrowing the angle.


SUB - Lee Clark was obviously not happy with the first-half performance and made a substitution during the half-time break. The manager handed Krystian Pearce his Town debut at the expense of Dean Heffernan; he went into right-back, with Tom Clarke switching to left back.

Performance Coach Steve Black had the players in a huddle out on the pitch for a long time before second-half got underway and it was clear that Town would not lie down and die despite the three goal deficit. An early cross-field pass from Kay set Pilkington away down the right and his low cross was turned into the path of the former Tranmere man by Novak; however, his shot from just outside the box was blocked before it could trouble Kelvin Davis.

Credit to the Town fans in the corner of the ground - they were still in good voice despite the scoreline. Their team were enjoying far more possession in the second 45 minutes, but could not trouble the home goalkeeper.

Winger Puncheon hit a speculative curling effort over the crossbar from range eleven minutes into the half.

SUB - Clark made hissecond substitution in the 57th minute, with Nathan Eccleston replacing Gary Roberts on the wing.

Hammond directed a tame header from a Puncheon corner well within the reach of Alex Smithies soon afterwards before Town launched a good attack down the left. Tom Clarke and Eccleston exchanged a smart one-two before the latter squared the ball to Kay; he kept the ball moving to the right for Pilkington, but Jordan Rhodes could only head his deep cross behind from a very acute angle.

Saints were back on the attack soon afterwards and Smithies did well to gather in midfielder Schneiderlin's shot with a crowd of players around him.

SUB - Town made their final substitution in the 64th minute, with Theo Robinson replacing Novak in attack.

Lee Clark was visibly frustrated on the touchline with twenty minutes left after Trotman knocked a long free-kick from Drinkwater straight down into the six yard box, as no Town players were on hand to capitalise.

Southampton should have made it four through a corner routine in the 73rd minute; Puncheon's near post delivery was flicked on by Hammond for the onrushing Fonte, but he directed a relatively simple header way over the Town crossbar.

GOAL - The Saints did make it four in the 76th minute through Dean Hammond. The Terriers conceded a very debatable corner after it appeared that Tom Clarke had played the ball off Puncheon, but from the winger's set-piece Hammond ran unchallenged to the near post and directed a clever header across Alex Smithies and inside the far post.

The Terriers almost had a consolation goal two minutes later, but after Robinson prodded Tom Clarke's cross into the path of Rhodes he fired wide on the turn. As it happened, the striker was being flagged offside anyway.

SUB - Southampton made their first change in the 79th minute, with Senegalese international Papa Waigo N'Diaye replacing goalscorer Barnard.

SUB - Their second change followed just two minutes later, with Jaidi being replaced by former Exeter man Dan Seaborne.

Town went very close to their first goal with seven minutes remaining when Pilkington's low ball drilled across the area was met by the outstretched leg of Rhodes, but somehow a defender got a block in; the ball fell to Drinkwater on the edge of the box, but his powerful volley was also blocked by a defender.

GOAL - The home side scored their fifth goal of the evening in the 85th minute through substitute Papa Waigo N'Diaye. The Fiorentina loanee latched onto a clever ball over the top from Lambert before turning inside Peter Clarke and bearing down on Alex Smithies; the young 'keeper did very well to get a hand to the ball as the striker tried to dance past him, but the rebound fell back to the striker and he beat the recovering Clarke on the line to add to the scoreline.

SUB - Southampton made their final change with four minutes left, handing a debut to first year scholar Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; he replaced Lambert.

The youngster almost netted his first professional goal just moments after coming onto the pitch after meeting Lallana's near post cross, but he ballooned his header over the bar when in space.

During the four minutes of added time Puncheon curled an effort over the bar from 22 yards out before sub Robinson sent a similar effort over at the other end.


Town's Team (4-4-2):

Alex Smithies; Dean Heffernan (Krystian Pearce 46), Peter Clarke (c), Neal Trotman, Tom Clarke; Gary Roberts (Nathan Eccleston 57), Danny Drinkwater, Antony Kay, Anthony Pilkington; Lee Novak (Theo Robinson 64), Jordan Rhodes

Unused Subs: Simon Eastwood, Michael Collins, Nathan Clarke, Robbie Simpson

Town Booking: Tom Clarke (23)

Attendance: 19,821

Visitors: 684

    Data provided by Press Association


    Town was the first club to win three successive league titles in 1926. Only Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United have matched this feat.