|Pretty Rickie: Lambert scores the first of his three goals at St Marys|
Southampton 3 (Lambert 8, 24, 82)
Nottingham Forest 2 (Derbyshire, 7) (Majewski, 42)
Nottingham Forest were left with nothing to show from a much improved performance on Saturday as Southampton striker Rickie Lambert fired home a hat-trick to win his side all three points.
The Reds had taken an early lead but struggled to defend their penalty box allowing Nigel Adkin’s men back into the game. Although the sides were level at the break it was the Saints who marched on in the second half after Forest were denied a late penalty - Lambert capping a fine performance with all three goals to give the home side their strongest start to the campaign for 76 years.
The Reds got the match off to the perfect start following a strong run by Ishmael Miller down the left, the former West Brom striker picked out fellow new boy Matt Derbyshire who converted his first for the club from close range.
Yet some slack Forest defending allowed the home side back into the game less than a minute later. Brazilian Guly Do Prado was given far too much time to pick out Saints frontman David Connolly in the area – and although Forest keeper Lee Camp blocked his shot, he could do nothing about the follow-up from the lively Lambert who made it all square.
The Saints then turned on the attacking flair they have shown at home all season – the resolute Wes Morgan denying Saints midfielder Dean Hammond with a great block before Lambert went close with a free-kick from just outside the area.
The south coast men continued to press and soon had their second goal. The observant Jack Cork finding Connolly who flicked the ball on to the waiting Lambert - rising to head past Camp with ease at the back post.
Camp then had to be alert again moments later as the highly-rated Portuguese defender Jose Fonte connected for a free-header following a Danny Fox free-kick. Fox was then at the centre of some controversy after he brought down Miller in the box - despite appeals from Steve McClaren’s men referee Iain Williamson failed to award a spot-kick.
Miller was at the centre of everything the Reds did well in attack and played a part in the Forest equaliser three minutes before the interval. The powerful striker found Derbyshire in the area and the former Olympiacos man calmly squared the ball to Radoslaw Majewski who finished coolly from eight yards.
Before half time Forest could have taken the lead with what looked like a move straight from the training ground. Andy Reid’s corner found Majewski on the edge of the area who struck a neat cross to Reds’ skipper Luke Chambers whose header was deflected marginally wide.
McClaren may have had a few inspiring words for his side in the dressing room at the break and it showed as the away side started the second half well. Saints keeper Kelvin Davis called into action immediately to deny Miller’s header from a pinpoint Chris Cohen free-kick.
Miller then caused more problems for the Southampton defence as Cohen pulled the ball back to allow him time in the area – however unfortunately for the Reds the ball was soon scrambled to safety.
At the other end, Fonte nearly restored the Saints lead as he headed against the post following a corner. Northern Ireland international keeper Camp then had to dive to keep out a powerful long range shot from Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin.
Although the second half was not as lively as the first there was more controversy late on as the Reds were denied what looked to be a clear penalty by the referee’s assistant. Derbyshire tangled with Davis in the box and the Southampton keeper appeared to trip him, but astonishingly the Forest striker was booked for diving.
To rub more salt into the wounds of the Forest faithful the Saints restored their lead less than a minute later. Again McClaren’s men were undone by another set-piece as Fox’s free-kick found the dazzling Lambert who headed home his third to take away the match ball and a club record 12th successive home league win for Southampton.
Forest now sit fourth from bottom in the Championship and play bitter rivals Derby County next at the City Ground on Saturday 17th September. Kick-off is at 1pm.