BY anyone’s measure, Rickie Lambert has enjoyed a fine season so far – but Saints’ talismanic front man has warned opponents that his best is yet to come.

The striker scored his ninth goal of the Premier League campaign when he confidently converted the decisive penalty in Saturday’s 1-0 win at relegation rivals Aston Villa.

It is an impressive, not to mention invaluable, return from the 30-year-old, especially considering that just 18 months ago he had never played above League One level.

However, despite being just a single strike away from double figures, Lambert brushes off the suggestion that he might be ahead of schedule this term when it comes to goals.

“No, not really, I kind of hoped I would be on more,” he said.

“I’m going to try and push on. I’m going to get fitter with each game.

“I’m properly match fit early doors, but the longer the season goes the fitter I feel and the better I feel.

“I’m hoping you’re going to see a better Rickie Lambert the second half (of the season).”

Lambert, who wore the captain’s armband in the absence of Adam Lallana and José Fonte on Saturday, hailed Saints’ second away win of the season as “massive”.

“That is a big, big three points,” he said.

“Obviously, picking up three points to teams who are around you is massive, so we’re absolutely delighted with that three points.

“No disrespect to Aston Villa, but we know it’s not an easy time for them at the minute, so we tried to take advantage of that.

“We know they’re a good team and I think they will stay up easily.

“They will go on a run shortly, but we tried to take advantage of the situation they’re in, and we did that first-half.”

Lambert added: “We battled like hell. To grind out a 1-0, I definitely think we deserved it.

“But full credit to Aston Villa. Second half they put us under a lot of pressure.”