Date: 13th December 2009 at 1:22am
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Three second-half goals from Southampton secured a fourth successive league win and five in all competitions to move the Saints up to 14th in the League One standings, end Tranmere’s five game unbeaten run and keep managerless Rovers in the relegation zone.

A brace from Scouse hotshot Rickie Lambert, who notched his 16th and 17th league goals of the season, added the gloss to a win which was engineered by Dan Harding’s goal that broke stubborn Tranmere resistance.

The first half was a combative and stop-start affair with the referee preferring to be the centre of attention. It was the tip of the iceberg for Mr McDermid and his assistants, who were all poor on the day. McDermid is infamous for being charged with using abusive language towards then-Leeds manager Dennis Wise [but who can blame him?].

Neither Tranmere nor Southampton created a clear-cut chance in the first half, although John Welsh went close with a free-kick and Schneiderlin forced Daniels into the first save of the game. Ian Thomas-Moore and Craig Curran also tried their luck for the visitors but failed to test Bartosz Bialkowski in the home goal.

The final ten minutes before half-time following a shoving match between Tranmere’s Ian Goodison and Southampton’s Lambert were particularly scrappy with the game being stopped for the most trivial offences.

Half-time arrived to the joy of the 350 Tranmere fans who had travelled from the Wirral to watch this game. Southampton were evidently becoming more and more frustrated with Lambert and Adam Lallana unable to make the desired impact upon the match.

The second half began and Southampton came out all guns blazing. Tranmere cracked under the pressure as Dan Harding fizzed a shot into the top corner. The ball was moving dangerously around the edge of the Tranmere area and eventually fell to Harding, who drove the ball past Daniels’ despairing dive to give the home side the lead.

As soon as the ball went in, Tranmere heads dropped and there was only going to be one winner from then on. No guesses as to whom.

Southampton were gifted a golden opportunity to double their lead when Marlon Broomes needlessly handballed. The outcome was inevitable. Lambert did the honours and emphatically put the Saints 2-0 up with 25 minutes still to play.

The home side wrapped the game up five minutes after doubling their lead.

Harding, who opened the scoring, won a free-kick thirty yards out which Lambert brilliantly dispatched, albeit with the help of a deflection. Nonetheless it was a great strike which the hapless Daniels could do nothing about. A true moment of quality in an otherwise poor game.

The final twenty minutes were a formality for Southampton, who did go in search of a fourth and, were it not for a goal-line clearance, would have made got a fourth goal. The scoreline stayed at 3-0 and it was a routine win for the home side.

The result leaves Tranmere five points away from safety whereas Southampton are five points above the bottom four and nine off the play-offs. Were it not for their points deduction, Southampton would be 6th.

The rest of the season looks positive for Southampton, who have two huge games within the next week. First up is a home tie against Norwich in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and then an away trip to Leeds United next Saturday.

Tranmere, however, face spending the rest of the season battling to get out of the bottom four although an FA Cup run has helped their cause financially. Their next game is against Bristol Rovers at Prenton Park.

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All I’ll say about this is that I have no idea what happened in the second half other than we capitualted. It was like a different Tranmere came out from the dressing room. We’d looked so solid first half so to go down by three goals is disappointing.

I’d also like to point out it’s disgraceful that it took us until the last ten minutes to get an effort on target [a tame Ricketts header]. Hoppefully we can take something from the Bristol Rovers game and go to Oldham full of confidence.