Southampton got back to winning ways as they registered a 1-0 win over fellow Premier League strugglers Reading at St Mary’s on Saturday.
Jason Puncheon’s fine second-half strike proved the difference as the visitors rarely created any meaningful openings, despite a Hal Robson-Kanu header against the post on the stroke of half-time.
The win pushes Saints out of the relegation zone and continues their fine run of form, while Reading are consigned to a fourth defeat in a row.
It was a bright start for the hosts as Jose Fonte headed down Luke Shaw’s cross towards Jay Rodriguez, who blasted low into the side netting from a tight angle.
Rickie Lambert drove a 25-yard volley wide before Southampton had another glorious chance to go ahead as Puncheon set Nathaniel Clyne loose on the right, but his drilled cross hit Morgan Schneiderlin in the chest and rolled wide.
The visitors started to enjoy more possession, but weren’t creating anything meaningful as the Saints defence stood firm. Lambert then had another attempt, curling effort across goal which Adam Federici did well to palm away.
Jay Tabb produced a superb counterattacking run to burst forward and drive an effort towards goal, which Kelvin Davis comfortably parried away.
The hosts then had a goal disallowed as Puncheon headed in at the far post from a corner, but the referee had spotted an infringement in the area and it didn’t count.
Adam Lallana was replaced by Gaston Ramirez after picking up a knock on his knee. Maya Yoshida then saw a header cleared from the far post by Shaun Morrison before Lambert couldn’t direct the follow-up effort on target.
Right on the stroke of half-time the visitors almost went in front as Morrison headed Shaun Cummings’ cross towards Robson-Kanu, who headed against the post.
The hosts started brightly after the break and Puncheon forced another fine save from Federici as he tried a low curling effort from the edge of the box, before Rodriguez volleyed just wide from 25 yards.
And Southampton finally took the lead on the hour as Lambert released Clyne who played a superb pass for Puncheon to gather and roll the ball across goal into the far corner.
Jobi McAnuff immediately had a chance to level after Clyne’s botched clearance, but blasted the ball well over the bar.
As the game entered the latter stages there was little action at either end as both sides battled in midfield, while Jason Roberts was working hard for the visitors but not having much joy.
Puncheon drove another effort wide, this time from distance, before moments later substitute Guly Do Prado fired an excellent curling strike just over the bar.
Davis was then forced to punch away a Nicky Shorey free kick before Do Prado wasted a glorious opportunity, firing straight at Federici from 10 yards, but the hosts held on to register another win and leap out of the relegation zone.