For match photos, scroll to Photostream above left. For statistics, click on the Statistics tab. Manager reaction to follow.
Southampton moved out of the Barclays Premier League relegation zone for the first time this season after Jason Puncheon’s second-half strike proved the difference against fellow strugglers Reading.
The south-coast club started brightly at St Mary’s but Reading looked dangerous on the break and had strong penalty appeals waved away when Jay Tabb went down in the box. Southampton then had a Puncheon header chalked off before they lost captain Adam Lallana to a knee injury.
Hal Robson-Kanu rattled a post in first-half stoppage time but Saints continued to threaten after the break, getting their rewards in the 61st minute when Puncheon lashed home what proved to be the winner.
The main talking-point coming into the match was goalkeeper Kelvin Davis’s return, having not started in the Premier League since the 6-1 defeat by Arsenal in mid-September. The club captain replaced the injured Paulo Gazzaniga while Gaston Ramirez dropped to the bench having spent the week in Uruguay on compassionate grounds.
Jay Rodriguez replaced him in the starting line-up and started brightly, firing just wide before Morgan Schneiderlin bundled a fierce Nathaniel Clyne cross inches wide. Reading goalkeeper Adam Federici had to keep out a goal-bound Lallana prod and then stopped Rickie Lambert after Rodriguez was blocked off by Shaun Cummings. Lallana curled over from the edge of the box but, for all of Saints’ attacking intent, Reading looked menacing on the counter-attack. Tabb’s burst forward and strike that stung the palms of Davis epitomised that.
Puncheon had a 34th-minute opener disallowed after an altercation between Federici and Maya Yoshida in the build-up. Southampton manager Nigel Adkins was forced to shuffle the pack as half-time approached after Lallana suffered a knee injury, resulting in the introduction of Ramirez. Puncheon had a shot deflected behind and Yoshida saw a header cleared off the line by Cummings as Saints pushed for a half-time lead, although Robson-Kanu saw a header rebound back off a post in stoppage time at the other end.
Reading were on top as the second half resumed but Saints soon found their feet, with Puncheon forcing Federici into action low to his left six minutes in. Rodriguez’s chest and volley rolled wide as Saints continued to press and, after Sean Morrison and Yoshida both received treatment, they had the lead. Lambert played through Clyne and his ball was controlled by Puncheon, who continued to fire a right-footed strike across Federici into the far corner.
Morrison was replaced by Alex Pearce in the 65th minute after his earlier knock and Noel Hunt soon came on for Tabb as Reading manager Brian McDermott looked to claw a goal back. The move to a three-pronged attack almost paid dividends immediately as Adam Le Fondre nodded just wide after a poor headed clearance by Clyne. Federici almost sliced a backpass into his own goal and then did well to hold on to a Clyne cross-shot.
Guly do Prado replaced Rodriguez 12 minutes from time and soon had a long-range effort that curled just over after Puncheon again came close. Reading threatened from late set-pieces and Do Prado was denied from close range but it remained 1-0 as Saints collected their second clean sheet of the season.
Southampton manager Nigel Adkins: "It is a good three points for us. It is important to win our home games, especially against the teams close to us in the league. We thoroughly deserved the victory today and, in fact, I would have liked us to have scored some more goals from the opportunities we created.
"All in all, we've got to be happy with the clean sheet and three points. The players stepped up to the mark. There might be talk [of pressure] on the outside, but the players deserve all the credit. They work really hard on the training ground and there is a great togetherness about them. They've gone out and put on a very good performance.
"Adam Lallana is in a brace and he is on crutches at the moment. That is standard procedure. He has got a knee injury and what we will do is assess that over the next 24 to 48 hours and that will give us a better prognosis to how long potentially he will be out for. It could be short, it could be longer. We don't know so we won't guess at the moment."
Reading manager Brian McDermott: "We are disappointed. We had an opportunity [to win] in the first half and hit the post. That first goal was always going to be really, really important. They got it.
"In the second half I didn't really feel we stepped on the way we needed to get three points, never mind one. It is hard to look and reflect straight after the game. At the moment, you would imagine there would be a lot of doom and gloom around the place after a loss like that. The second half we did not really do ourselves justice, especially with the ball. We know we have to be better than that and we now have another game on Tuesday to pick ourselves up."
|22 Dec 2012||v Sunderland (H)|
|26 Dec 2012||v Fulham (A)|
|29 Dec 2012||v Stoke (A)|
|01 Jan 2013||v Arsenal (H)|
|12 Jan 2013||v Aston Villa (A)|
|16 Jan 2013||v Chelsea (A)|