Southampton 2 Doncaster 0: Sharp fires Saints to fourth straight win to put former club in the mire
17:28 GMT, 24 March 2012
Former Doncaster striker Billy Sharp sent Southampton one step closer to the Barclays Premier League and at the same time nudged his old employers further towards the npower Championship trapdoor.
Sharp joined the Saints in the January transfer window for a fee in the region of 2million and scored two second-half goals to earn victory as the Saints continue to march towards promotion.
It will have been a bittersweet afternoon for Sharp as, despite sending his new side nine points clear of third-placed West Ham, the defeat leaves Rovers, for who he scored 41 goals in 86 appearances, staring relegation in the face, five points adrift of safety.
On a march: Billy Sharp nods the opener
Southampton: Davis, Butterfield, Fonte, Hooiveld, Fox, De Ridder (Barnard 67), Schneiderlin, Cork, Lallana (Hammond 78), Sharp, Lambert (Chaplow 49). Subs not used: Harding, Martin.
Scorer: Sharp 58, 75.
Doncaster: Ikeme, Chimbonda, Beye, Lockwood, Ilunga, Coppinger (Bennett 65), Gillett, Barnes (Brown 79), Oster (Robert 90), Diouf, Piquionne. Subs not used: Bagayoko, Friend.
Booked: Lockwood, Gillett, Diouf.
It was a dominant performance from
the hosts and Sharp broke the deadlock shortly before the hour with a
header and then put the game to bed by firing home from inside the area
with 15 minutes to go.
Rovers were left to reflect on a
third successive defeat, which may have been different had Frederic
Piquionne headed home early on.
Seven wins out of nine had seen the
Saints become firm favourites for the title before kick-off and Sharp
was given the nod upfront against his old club.
For Rovers, back-to-back home defeats
to Derby and Millwall had damaged their chances of survival but they
will have been buoyed by a recent point at West Ham.
Rovers' start will have provided
further optimism for boss Dean Saunders, but after complaining of missed
chances in recent weeks, he was again left with his head in his hands
when Piquionne headed over from Simon Gillett's cross in the eighth
minute as Rovers threatened to cause a shock.
The feeling was that the miss could
prove costly as Southampton settled in from there and Adam Lallana could
have opened the scoring after a neat exchange with Sharp, but his
effort was blocked.
The traffic was becoming one way and
after Rickie Lambert had a shout for a penalty turned down, Sharp went
close to registering against his old side, though his header went wide
of the post.
Party time: Southampton celebrate Sharp's opener
The opener eventually came 13 minutes
after the restart when Sharp reacted quickest to get on the end of Dan
Fox's inviting corner to head home his second goal in a Southampton
That tally was soon taken to three
with 15 minutes remaining when he capitalised on some poor defending
from Habib Beye before firing past Carl Ikeme.
Richard Chaplow shot wide as the
Saints looked to put the icing on the cake, but a fourth win on the
bounce means it appears as though it is just a matter of time until
promotion is secured.