Saints 4-0 Coventry City - Report
Saints sealed a return to the Premier League with a final day demolition of Coventry City at St Mary's.
Nigel Adkins' men ended the club's seven year spell outside of the top flight with a professional and polished performance to win 4-0 in front of a record attendance.
The side with the best home form in the league showed the nation exactly why they hadn't been outside of the top-two positions in the Championship all season, with a display that would have graced the division they will be in next year.
Strikes from Billy Sharp and Adam Lallana were sandwiched by efforts from both central defenders, as Saints shared the goals around once more, and the couple of goals in either half without reply, got the party into full swing.
For Saints fans it was the perfect end to a perfect campaign, with a glance at the final league table showing rivals Portsmouth in the relegation zone.
Saints: Davis, Butterfield, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox, Guly, Schneiderlin, Hammond (Cork 37), Lallana (Puncheon 83), Sharp (De Ridder 75), Lambert. Subs (not used): Bialkowski, Harding.
Coventry: Murphy, Hussey, Willis (Henderson 72), Cranie, Clarke, Baker, Bigirimana (Jeffers 46), Norwood, Thomas, McSheffrey (Roberts 34), McDonald. Subs (not used): Platt, Dunn.
Referee: Mr. A. Taylor (Lancashire)
Attendance: 32, 363
Nigel Adkins made two changes to the starting eleven with Guly taking up a place on the right of midfield and Morgan Schneiderlin coming into the side for Jack Cork. Jason Puncheon returned to the 16 and was named amongst the substitutes.
Saints got the game underway attacking the Northam stand on a mild afternoon inside St Mary's.
A lively start from the hosts almost drew a first chance in the opening seconds of the contest as Sharp picked out Guly's run into the area, but the Brazilian was knocked off the ball as he went to pull the trigger.
Adkins' side settled into their usual flow quickly as they passed the ball around with composure to make their opponents work hard to get possession.
It was the visitors however, who got the first sight of goal on 8 minutes when a corner from the Sky Blues was worked back out to the right hand side of the area where Gary McSheffrey struck a rising shot in at the near post, but Kelvin Davis was equal to it with a firm pair hands to block the effort.
At the other end, Saints continued to build up patiently with the foursome of Lallana, Guly, Lambert and Sharp all combining in their opponents' half to good effect, but were still yet to test Joe Murphy in the Coventry goal.
A wasteful effort from Carl Baker who hurried his shot was followed up by a wayward strike from Danny Fox for Saints, but the opening goal wasn't long in coming, as the hosts got their noses in front with 16 minutes played.
A terrific break forward from Jose Fonte saw the defender maraud into Coventry's half, and the defender kept his cool to pass out wide to Guly, and the Brazilian's low cross was slammed home by Lallana's shot which took a vicious deflection off SHARP into the back of the net from 18 yards out.
That was followed up just three minutes later by the second Saints goal, after Danny Butterfield won a corner. Coventry old boy Fox swung a delivery over which was headed home by FONTE for his first goal of the campaign.
On 22 Davis had to be alert to keep out Baker's low drive at his near post, but Saints nearly made it three soon after when Hammond played an inviting ball through to Sharp, who bore down on goal chased by two City defenders, the latter of which was Oliver Norwood, and he did just enough to rob the forward of possession as he shaped to shoot.
The calmness brought from the early goals relaxed the home side, and the crowd too, who kept driving the players on with every pass cheered.
Matters were made worse for the Sky Blues when Gary McSheffrey succumbed to injury and had to be replaced by William Roberts on the left of midfield.
Saints however, had to follow suit soon after when Hammond was forced off with a knock, and another former Sky Blue, Jack Cork taking his place in the centre.
Lallana was miraculously denied a second goal five minutes before the break when he benefitted from Butterfield's low cross which was cleared straight to him inside the area, and only an outstretched boot from a Coventry defender kept the midfielder's goal-bound strike out.
Saints settled for 2-0 at the break which was no less than they deserved for a clinical first half display that put them one step closer to the top flight.
Half Time: Saints 2-0 Coventry
Andy Thorn brought Shaun Jeffers on in place of Gael Bigirimana for the start of the new half as Saints prepared for the second 45 with the Northam fiercely encouraging them to complete the job.
Saints drew forward again less than three minutes after the restart with Guly and Cork linking neatly for the former to head over the bar with a towering effort.
Some more intricate link up from the hosts finished with Sharp teeing up Lambert from range, but the forward's thunderous effort, cleared the bar, with a third goal appearing to creep ever closer.
On 56 Lambert returned the favour to his strike partner who appeared to get the better of Jordan Willis before going to ground, but referee Anthony Taylor wasn't interested in appeals for a penalty.
Two minutes later, the long awaited third goal arrived. A scuffed corner from Fox, bounced around inside the area, with Sharp taking a swing, before Jos HOOIVELD swept home from six yards out, as the free scoring defender put Saints firmly in the driving seat for all three points.
It was 4-0 just past the hour mark when some more delightful combination play resulted with Lambert cushioning the ball down for Sharp, whose pass found LALLANA at the far post who celebrated his second goal of the game with a high shot that hit the roof of the net.
Coventry were forced to withdraw Jordan Willis who was suffering from cramp, and he was replaced by debutant Joe Henderson, as the hosts sought more gloss on the scoreline.
Davis was called upon again though to deny Baker once more, as the midfielder struck another clean effort from outside of the area which the 'keeper blocked with a firm punch clear.
With quarter of an hour to play, Steve De Ridder was introduced for Sharp who left the pitch to huge applause after a workman like performance in attack from the Yorkshireman.
The competitive element of the contest looked to have petered out as Saints knocked the ball around like a training session in the Sky blues half as De Ridder made his presence felt in the final third.
One man who wasn't finished just yet, was Rickie Lambert who was desperate to add his name to the scoresheet, but his weak effort after a one-two with Cork, kept the division's top scorer waiting.
Two-goal man Lallana was replaced by Puncheon with seven minutes remaining as the final few moments of Championship football were played out with anticipation building for the events after the final whistle.
The whistle was followed by the cheers of success as Saints sealed a memorable promotion in front of the club's largest ever attendance.
Full Time: Saints 4-0 Coventry