Gallery: Superb Saints hit five at Portman Road
SOUTHAMPTON put on a superb display at Portman Road to leave sorry Ipswich Town humbled 5-2 and facing major questions following three successive home defeats.
As much as the Saints attack were in scintillating form, Ipswich also contributed heavily to their own downfall with some terrible defending.
Rickie Lambert scored twice in the opening 11 minutes to leave the Blues rocking, before David Connolly added a third just before the break.
Ipswich staged a brave fightback after the restart and scored twice through Keith Andrews and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas.
Any hopes of a comeback were quickly extinguished though as the visitors moved up a gear again, Adam Lallana scoring twice to wrap up a well-deserved win and send Nigel Adkins’ side to the top of the Championship table.
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The in-form Saints ruthlessly exploited Paul Jewell’s experimental 4-1-3-2 formation to storm into a two goal lead within the opening 11 minutes, with both scored by Lambert.
The opener came with little over three minutes on the clock when Lambert was allowed space to chest down a long ball from the back, play a neat one-two with strike partner Connolly before slipping the ball under keeper David Stockdale.
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With eight straight league wins behind them coming into the game, Adkins’ side began to play with real confidence as the Blues showed plenty of the Portman Road edginess that manager Jewell spoke about prior to the game.
The second was almost a carbon copy of the first, with a long ball forward from defence ending with Lambert playing a quick one-two with Connolly before firing in off the post.
Jewell reacted by switching to a traditional 4-4-2 formation, with holding midfielder Mark Kennedy moving to left-back, Aaron Cresswell to left-midfield and Grant Leadbitter playing on the opposite flank.
Ipswich did improve after this with Lee Bowyer drawing an excellent one-handed save out of former Town keeper Kelvin Davis, before Cresswell spurned a glorious chance following good build-up.
Just as there looked like hope that the hosts might find a way back into the game though, Southampton once again sliced through the Blues defence with ease to add another.
The third came in the 42nd minute when Guly Do Prado advanced between centre-backs Damien Delaney and Tommy Smith, rounded Stockdale and pulled the ball back for Connolly to score.
Jewell shuffled his pack again at the break, bringing on Lee Martin and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas for Jason Scotland and Kennedy.
It sparked a fightback for the home side who pulled one back in the 56th minute when Keith Andrews lashed the ball in from the corner of the area after Michael Chopra’s shot had come back off the bar.
In a frantic few minutes, Cresswell cleared a Lallana shot off the line before Town quickly went up the other end and reduced the deficit further just past the hour.
Following some panicky defending from the visitors, Emmanuel-Thomas – who provided some much needed presence up front – eventually forced the ball home following a lengthy scramble.
Portman Road was suddenly rocking, but Southampton stepped up a gear to once again leave the Town defence in tatters.
The win was sealed in the 76th minute when Lallana ran unmarked onto a Morgan Schneiderlin chipped pass to score.
And the midfielder rubbed salt into the wounds in stoppage-time, outpacing Carlos Edwards before cooly completing his brace.
IPSWICH TOWN (4-1-3-2): Stockdale; Edwards, Smith, Delaney, Cresswell; Kennedy (Martin 46); Leadbitter (cpt), Andrews, Bowyer; Chopra, Scotland (Emmanuel-Thomas 46).
Subs: Lee-Barrett; Ainsley; Ellington.
Booked: Delaney (35), Chopra (81).
SOUTHAMPTON (4-4-2): Davis; Richardson, Fonte, Seaborne, Harding; Do Prado (Schneiderlin 71), Hammond (cpt), Cork, Lallana (De Ridder 90+); Connolly (Fox 77), Lambert.
Subs: Bialkowski; Martin.
Booked: Richardson (81).
Attendance: 18,553 (1,165 away)
Referee: Jonathan Moss