Saints controversially march on

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Rickie Lambert scored his second hat-trick of the season in a controversial 3-0 win over Brighton at St Mary's to stretch their winning run at home to 20 matches.

Southampton, who sit top of the league, failed to find the net in the opening half for the first time this season but the game sprung into life when Lambert's header broke the deadlock four minutes after the interval.

Just before the hour a foul outside of the Brighton penalty box lead to a misjudged decision from Peter Walton, resulting in a penalty for Saints, which after protests also lead to Brighton's Mauricio Taricco being shown a red card for abusive language.

The Seagulls were left to feel even more hard done by when Lambert converted from the spot to double his sides lead. The Southampton striker converted another penalty ten-minutes later to secure the match ball and victory for his side.

Saints manager Nigel Adkins praised his team, making a point that discipline was key.

"We started well in the second half, Rickie Lambert has scored a great hat-trick and we kept the ball, kept our discipline and that made it a pleasing three points."

Brighton felt let down by referee Walton and coach Gus Poyet said: "I'm always fair with referees because it's a very difficult job. When the decision is tight we need to give them the benefit of the doubt but when the incident is a yard outside the box it's embarrassing."

Elsewhere in the Championship, West Ham defeated Coventry 2-1 to remain on Southampton's heels, five points behind the leaders.

Struggling Coventry led at half-time after a tidy turn and finish from Clive Platts but The Hammers hit back with two goals in six second-half minutes. Carlton Cole and Frederic Piquionne secured all three points, ensuring promotion is still firmly in their grasp.

Third-place Middlesborough were made to share the points as visitors Blackpool held them to a 2-2 draw. Blackpool's Jonjo Shelvey, on loan from Liverpool, equalised with 12 minutes to go to cancel out Scott Mcdonald's second goal five-minutes earlier for Boro.

In a tight-top half, where only three points separates 12th from 7th, 8th-placed Leicester scored three second-half goals without reply against Crystal Palace to move level on points with their rivals in the table on 25 points. Two-goals in three minutes from Paul Gallagher added to Jermiane Beckford's 55th-minute goal, which secured an impressive home win for the Foxes.

Two first-half goals for Hull City saw-off Derby in a 2-0 away win. Matty Fryatt and Cameron Stewart found the net for The Tigers, and no reply from Derby ensured Nick Barmby started his managerial career off with a win.

Fifth-placed Leeds had Robert Snodgrass to thank after his last-minute winner earned his side a win and a brace on the day. Burnley went ahead after ten minutes with a header from Jay Rodriguez in a game in which the home side dominated at Turf Moor. That didn't stop Leeds though and Snograss scored in the 74th and 89th minute to sink Eddie Howie's men.

Meanwhile, in the bottom half of the table, Nottingham Forest snatched victory again Ipswich in an enthralling game which ended in the home side winning 3-2.

A goal at the death from Marcus Tudgay was the difference between the two sides, who sit level in the league with 20 points. Robbie Findley and Joel Lynch also netted for Forest to cancel out a brace from Ipswich defender Danny Collins, who is on loan from Stoke.

Watford and Portsmouth also came out of the weekend level on points after Michael Kightly and Marvin Sordell both found the net in the opening period, meaning Michael Appleton's reign as Portsmouth manager got off to a disappointing start.

Rock-bottom Doncaster Rovers succumbed to their 11th league-defeat of the season with a 2-0 loss at the hands of 15th-placed Barnsley. A goal in each half from Craig Davies sunk Rovers, and Adam Lockwood's sending off added to their woes.

Bristol City continued their good form under new boss Derek Mcinnes, beating Millwall to draw the Lions closer to them in what was a potential relegation battle. Nicky Maynard's brace for the Robins showed his worth to take all the glory from the New Den.

Reading slumped to a 2-1 home defeat to high-flyers Cardiff. Peter Whittingham put the away side ahead after two minutes with a well-struck 30-yard goal and Mark Hudson scored with twenty minutes to go before Jimmy Kebe's consolation for Brian McDermott's side.

Peterborough earned an away point against Birmingham in a 1-1 draw at St Andrews. Grant McCann scored on the hour mark to level the scores after Marlon King struck in the 22nd minute. Despite the fast-paced game no winning goal came and the points were shared.

Rickie Lambert
Brighton & Hove Albion

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