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- Steven Fletcher gives Sunderland a vital win
- Saints remain 17th going into Christmas
- Four-game unbeaten home run ends
- Emmanuel Mayuka made first Premier League start
Saints remain 17th going into Christmas after today's defeat, still out of the relegation zone on goal difference. The good news is that the three teams below them all lost 1-0 too. A three-point gap has now opened up to 16th place, which is currently occupied by Aston Villa. We will have reaction on the website for you as soon as it becomes available. Thanks for joining us today and have a Merry Christmas.
FULL-TIME: Saints 0 Sunderland 1
CHANCE (90+3 mins): Ramirez ball to the back post is nodded back to Guly by Lambert, but the Brazilian's shot is deflected wide.
SAINTS SUB (79 mins): Jason Puncheon off, Guly do Prado on, as Nigel Adkins makes his last throw of the dice here.
CHANCE (77 mins): Craig Gardner's deep free-kick bounces right in front of Kelvin Davis and nearly slips through his legs. Luckily, despite mishandling the ball, it gets caught up in his feet before squirming over the line.
CHANCE (62 mins): Steve De Ridder's corner picks out Jose Fonte unmarked six yards out. His header was going wide, but Jack Colback diverts it behind anyway. Really good chance to make it 1-1 wasted.
SAINTS SUB (60 mins): Morgan Schneiderlin comes off, Steven Davis comes on.
SAINTS SUB (55 mins): Emmanuel Mayuka comes off, Steve De Ridder on. First Premier League appearance of the season for the Belgian winger.
CHANCE (53 mins): Adam Johnson weaves his way into the area from the left, but hits his shot over the bar from a half-decent position.
CHANCE (46 mins): Rickie Lambert has a pop from 30 yards, but his right-footed effort is a yard or two over the bar.
HALF-TIME: Saints 0 Sunderland 1
PENALTY APPEAL (43 mins): Emmanuel Mayuka goes to ground under a challenge from Carlos Cuellar. Nothing given by Howard Webb. Looked like the correct decision, judging by the replays.
GOAL: Saints 0 Sunderland 1 (Steven Fletcher 42): Adam Johnson gets down the left wing and cuts the ball back into the path of Stephane Sessegnon. He gets his shot all wrong and accidentally diverts it into the path of Fletcher, who steers home with his left foot for his eighth of the season.
CHANCE (20 mins): Gaston Ramirez hits a dipping left-foot effort from 25 yards that Simon Mignolet gets down to. The Sunderland keeper doesn't do a great job, with the ball hitting his hands, bouncing into the ground and then high into the air. But it does get away to safety.
CHANCE (16 mins): Craig Gardner's cross from the right is met by Steven Fletcher at the near post, but his left-footed effort goes a couple of yards wide.
CHANCE (14 mins): A short corner routine opens up space for Sebastian Larsson from the corner of the area, but his low drive is held by Kelvin Davis at his near post.
CHANCE (8 mins): Emmanuel Mayuka is tripped about 25 yards out, in line with the left edge of the box. Rickie Lambert whips in a low free-kick towards the far corner that clips off a Sunderland defender and flies just past the post.
CHANCE (1 min): Just 20 seconds gone, as Stephane Sessegnon turns and tries a long-range drive that is tipped wide by a flying Kelvin Davis.
The teams are out at St Mary's. Kick-off just a few moments away. We will have updates for you here throughout the match...
Jack Cork this week offered a revealing insight into a set of discussions earlier in the season that he says were the catalyst for Saints turning their season around:
When you’re going through a bad patch, the thing you do is look at everything you are doing wrong and try and put it right. The manager came in and said ‘what do you lot think we’re doing wrong?’ Everybody put their own input in, we changed things we needed to change and it worked for us. We had a few talks and we had a few things around the training ground and stuff. We all decided as a team what we needed to do to put things right. We focused on different things at the training ground, a lot more people spoke up. We created little groups and stuff at the training ground to talk about certain issues. I think just everything has come together at the right time when things when were looking bad and somehow we all just pulled together and started picking up a few results in big games we had.Saints midfielder Jack Cork
News from elsewhere: Arsenal win 1-0 at 18th-placed Wigan. That means Saints will be out of the bottom three at Christmas, assuming they don't lose by six goals anyway.
Ok, not tried this before, so let's hope this works. Here's a video of Nigel Adkins trying to not say very much about Adam Lallana's injury prognosis, and other selected bits from his pre-match press conference:
Saints (last six, league only): D W W D L W
Sunderland (last six, league only): L D L L W L
Saints top scorer (league only): Rickie Lambert 6
Sunderland top scorer (league only): Steven Fletcher 7
Two changes for Southampton today. Emmanuel Mayuka does indeed start his first Premier League game, playing up front alongside Rickie Lambert. Gaston Ramirez returns to the lineup. Adam Lallana is out, while Jay Rodriguez drops to the bench. Kelvin Davis continues in goal. For Sunderland there is good news, as Steven Fletcher overcomes a back problem to start, while Danny Rose returns from injury.
SAINTS: K Davis; Clyne, Fonte, Yoshida, Shaw; Puncheon, Cork, Schneiderlin, Ramirez; Mayuka, Lambert.
Subs: Boruc, Hooiveld, Richardson, S Davis, De Ridder, Guly, Rodriguez.
SUNDERLAND: Mignolet, Gardner, Rose, O'Shea, Cuellar, Larsson, Colback, Johnson, McClean, Sessegnon, Fletcher.
Subs: Bardsley, Campbell, Wickham, McFadden, Vaughan, Bramble, Westwood.
Referee: Howard Webb
Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill has been giving his opinions on Saints ahead of the game...
Southampton have a resilience about them, as newly-promoted sides often do after gaining so much confidence on the way to going up and they’ll be difficult to beat. I’ve watched them a few times and, as it turns out in most of the games I’ve watched them in, they’ve managed to get points. I agree that a player like Rickie Lambert this week will present a different challenge to Robin van Persie last week, but that is not to put Rickie Lambert down. The Premier League is a diverse one and you come across all sorts of challenges in it, in defence and in attack. And I’m a big admirer, I really am, of players like Rickie Lambert at Southampton and Grant Holt at Norwich City. They have played in the lower leagues and fully earned their right to be playing in the Premier League. They are here by right and they are showing they can compete and be effective in this division. But, as a team, that’s what we all need to do this Saturday – we need to go to Southampton, compete across the whole of the 90 minutes, and be effective.Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill
Nigel Adkins was asked numerous questions about the health of Adam Lallana this week. The Saints manager would not go beyond confirming the captain’s absence for this afternoon’s match...
Adam is still in his knee brace. He is progressing well and is now off the crutches. He won't be available for Saturday's game against Sunderland and that is all I need to say. That is all we are going to say. We're just going to say he is out for the Sunderland game and you can ask me the next question ahead of the next game. He is obviously the captain of the team, an instrumental character. He has got in the England set-up this season but we've got other players as well. Gaston Ramirez played there ever so well there when we played Reading, but we've got several players that can play in that position as well. Like all teams, you are going to suffer from injuries at certain stages, it is how well you can deal with it. I believe we have got several very good players that can play in offensive positions, especially where Adam plays.Saints manager Nigel Adkins
Sunderland squad news: Saints’ opponents have doubts over £12m striker and top scorer Steven Fletcher, as well as defenders Phil Bardsley (knee) and Danny Rose (ankle). All were back in light training this week and Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill is hopeful they will all be available. Skipper Lee Cattermole remains on the long-term casualty list with a knee ligament injury.
Saints squad news: All the talk for pretty much the last two weeks has been about Adam Lallana, who suffered a knee injury in the 1-0 win against Reading two weeks ago. The midfielder is out for today’s match and probably at least a couple more with ligament damage. That could pave the way for Emmanuel Mayuka to make his first Premier League start, alongside Rickie Lambert in attack. Jay Rodriguez is the other obvious option. Kelvin Davis is likely to retain his place in goal, despite Paulo Gazzaniga’s return to training after a shoulder injury. Other than Lallana, Saints are at full strength.
Hello, and welcome, to this afternoon’s Daily Echo blog covering the Premier League match between Saints and Sunderland, at St Mary’s. Just like two weeks ago when Reading visited, this is an important battle between two of the division’s apparent relegation contenders. Saints are outside of the bottom three on goal difference, although that could change depending on what 18th-placed Wigan do in today’s early kick-off against Arsenal, while the Black Cats are just one point and one place ahead of Nigel Adkins’ side. We will have the build-up, team news and match updates for you here.