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Southampton 1 Millwall 0
AS the victories continue to flow, so the records keep on tumbling for Nigel Adkins’ Saints side.
The club’s magical start to the new season continued on Saturday with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Millwall at St Mary’s.
The result means that Saints have now tasted victory in their opening four league games for the first time in club history.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg – records have been tumbling faster than most people can keep up so far this season.
Already, new marks have been set for consecutive league wins and away victories. Saints have now also tied the record for their best number of home wins on the spin, reaching 11.
And, to top it all off, there is the thrill of seeing them sitting atop the Championship table. Four games in is obviously no time to be getting too excited about the standings.
Many teams have started seasons well, only to fade – and vice versa. But there is no doubt that Saints have been the class of the division so far.
Beating a well-organised and determined Millwall side underlined that. It might not have been as glamorous as the 5-2 win at Ipswich that preceded it, but the victory was almost equally as encouraging.
The Championship season is in its infancy, but Saints have already proven in that short space of time that they can win in a number of different ways.
They blew away Leeds on opening day, and they simply embarrassed Ipswich last Tuesday. But performances like the one at Portman Road will only ever come around so often.
Saints will also have to scrap it out for results, and show a fair amount of steel to go along with their undoubted flair. And, so far this season, they have shown that is well within their capacity.
At Barnsley, they required a backs-to-the-wall effort late on, while dogged Millwall proved a tough nut to crack.
Both times, Saints walked away with 1-0 victories.
That is an art that has helped many teams achieve great things over the years.
If Saints can continue to prove adept at it then they will go far this term. Against Millwall, they looked tired at times, particularly in the second half – understandable given the full-on schedule teams must endure at the start of the season.
But there was still enough craft and quality to break down a determined defence. Jack Cork again proved why he has been such a wonderful signing.
His exceptional through ball in the first half to set up Guly do Prado’s winner was what ultimately separated the sides.
His tenacity and technical ability in midfield has really elevated Saints. Yet again, he and Dean Hammond won the battle in the centre of the pitch.
A few weary legs blunted the effectiveness on Saturday, but it was still clear Saints possessed the far greater threat.
And what problems Millwall did pose were well dealt with pretty well by the back five.
Connolly had the first real opportunity, diverting Lallana’s low ball into the six-yard box just wide at the near post.
The striker’s low drive from Guly’s lay-off on the edge of the box shortly afterwards also went the wrong side of the post.
Hameur Bouazza then fizzed an effort of his own from the left side of the area just wide. But it was Saints who looked the better side, and they deservedly took the lead in the 18th minute.
Lambert laid the ball into Cork on the halfway line, and the midfielder struck a beautiful first-time pass that picked out the run of Guly perfectly.
The Brazilian only had keeper Steve Mildenhall to beat, and he made no mistake, planting a right-foot shot firmly past him.
The game died down after the goal, with Lambert’s dipping volley from 25 yards, which went over, Saints’ best remaining effort of the half.
Kelvin Davis was untroubled before the break, although Tamika Mkandawire’s rasping shot that cleared the bar just before the whistle at least provided a warning.
Davis then kept out Nadjim Abdou with a smart close-range save of his own, after the Millwall sub had charged down Dan Seaborne’s attempted clearance from six yards.
Millwall perhaps should have equalised from Bouazza’s corner on the hour mark. Paul Robinson’s flicked header found Mkandawire at the back post, but his close-range effort, and former Cherries striker Josh McQuoid’s subsequent stab goalwards, were kept out by a combination of Davis and Frazer Richardson.
Danny Fox made his home debut two minutes later, replacing Lallana, before Steve De Ridder was brought on for Connolly.
Bouazza could have equalised in the 76th minute, after McQuoid found him in space on the left. But the winger fired just wide.
From then on, Saints suffered no real scares. After this incredible start, expectations are continuing to creep upwards. And who knows what height they could reach if Saints go to big-spending Leicester next weekend and make it five wins out of five?
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