Saints double-up as Palace slump to defeat
Southampton go fourth after a comfortable home win
Mauricio Pochettino's Saints climbed to fourth after a comfortable victory over newly-promoted Crystal Palace.
The Argentine opted to make just one change to the side that beat Liverpool, with Jay Rodriguez making way for Northern Ireland captain Steven Davis.
Palace boss Ian Holloway made four changes, introducing Ward, Dikgacoi, Kebe and Gayle to the remainder of the side that were sunk by Swansea last weekend.
Southampton started on the front foot, forcing Joel Ward to clear Morgan Schneiderlin's headed effort off the line within the opening ten minutes at St. Mary's.
It was a first half largely devoid of chances, as both sides continued to cancel each other out.
Martin Atkinson's first yellow card of the afternoon went to Steven Davis, for a shirt pull on Jimmy Kebe just short of the twenty minute mark.
Shortly after, Saints skipper Adam Lallana combined well with Dani Osvaldo, before Rickie Lambert curled his attempt over Julian Speroni's crossbar.
Lambert's second attempt was to prove more fruitful, as the forward's free-kick forced Julian Speroni to punch the ball away from danger.
The major talking point of the game came in the 28th minute, when Moroccan striker Marouane Chamakh went to ground after appearing to have rounded Polish keeper Artur Boruc. Referee Martin Atkinson went straight for his cards, cautioning the former Arsenal striker for what he had viewed as simulation. The television replays did little to suggest Atkinson was anything but correct.
Adam Lallana whipped in a corner which caused chaos in the Crystal Palace area, with the visitors failing to clear. Ultimately, Dejan Lovren couldn't get a proper connection on the ball, causing it to fall into the arms of Julian Speroni.
Steven Davis looked to launch a quick-counter attack from a corner for Southampton, but Dani Osvaldo saw his run well-covered by the Palace defence, who cleared behind for a corner.
A smattering of consecutive corners before the break fell Southampton's way, but Pochettino's men were unable to break the deadlock in what could best be described as a frustratingly dull first half.
The second half, however, was in complete contrast to the first.
There were no changes from either side during the break, with both looking to push on with the set-ups that had been utilised in the first half.
Dani Osvaldo's wait for his first goal in a Southampton shirt came to an end, as the Italian international swivelled and fired low past Julian Speroni to fire the Saints into an important lead.
Osvaldo's first for the Saints was to prove the match to light the fire, as the home fans took the atmosphere up a notch as their side pressed for a quick-fire second.
It was that man Osvaldo once again who managed to draw a foul whilst looking to break the defensive line of Ian Holloway's men from South London.
Thirty yards left of goal, it was to be an opportunity for Rickie Lambert to end a four-game goal drought and clinch his 200th career goal. It was an opportunity that was not to be missed.
Lambert struck a powerful yet placed effort at the Palace goal, which flicked in off of the inside of the left-hand post. Replays seemed to suggest that Danny Gabbidon was guilty of ducking in the wall, but that did little to dampen the spirits of the Southampton squad, who celebrated their advantage with the home fans.
The home side had gone from frustrated to overjoyed in just five minutes, as Palace failed to get out of the blocks in time to cope with a powerful start to the second half for Southampton, who were in search of a first home win this term.
Steven Davis could've quickly killed off the game, but his effort on the turn was hit well over the bar. In all reality the game was all but won, as Crystal Palace fell flat in their efforts to impact the match.
Ian Holloway opted to substitute Barry Bannan and Dwight Gayle to allow him to utilise Jerome Thomas and Cameron Jerome, as he attempted to pull his side back into the fixture just before to the hour mark.
Palace made inroads towards the Southampton goal, but were repeatedly thwarted by a combination of the trio of Jose Fonte, Victor Wanyama and Dejan Lovren.
Lambert went in search of a second, but he could only scuff an attempt that he struggled to get out from under his feet.
It was to prove to be one of Lambert's last contributions to the action, as with thirteen minutes remaining he was substituted by Pochettino, who opted to add Jay Rodriguez to the encounter.
Southampton hearts were in mouths for a brief period when Dani Osvaldo came down from challenging with a header in a heap, clutching tightly onto his left ankle. Although the club's record signing disappeared from play to receive physio treatment, he was soon able to return, much to the delight of the Saints faithful.
Palace's best chance of the afternoon fell to Dean Moxey, but his well-hit attempt was snuffed out by a strong goal-line clearance by one-time Crystal Palace defender Jose Fonte.
James Ward-Prowse got sight of goal and went for a late attempt, but his shot flew harmlessly over the goal, drawing no effort from Speroni in the Palace goal.
Cameron Jerome's late attempt summed up the afternoon for Ian Holloway. After some neat work by Dean Moxey, Jerome could only fire an ugly attempt high into the Southampton fans behind the goal, on an ultimately frustrating afternoon. It had proved to be an afternoon of few chances for Palace, who were made to pay for their slow start to the second period.
It was to end two-nil, as Southampton banked their third consecutive win and fourth consecutive clean sheet as they continued their rise up the Premier League table, sitting behind Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea.
Speaking after the fixture, Ian Holloway slammed Marouane Chamakh for going to ground when it would've been easier for the forward to convert, and he said: "He went over far too easily. Chamakh looks like he's dived there to be honest, which I'm not too happy about. I cannot understand why he didn't shoot or chip it. Such is life."
Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino lauded his players, but urged them to capitalise on the position the club finds itself in: "I think belief is key. I believe in the players and they believe in how they are playing. More now than ever, we have to work even harder because teams will respect us and know more about us."
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