Tranmere brushed aside by classy Saints
St Mary's Stadium
Tranmere were swept aside by Southampton team looking to impress in front of their home fans.
Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana grabbed both the goals either side of half-time to crush a Tranmere defence that were worked hard all afternoon.
Rovers spent most of their game camped out in their own half, waiting for a counter attack to come that never did. Sloppy defending was present in both goals, with Lambert beating Nick Wood to head in Saints first just before half-time, before an unmarked Lallana tapped in to ease the pressure on 56 minutes.
The rest of the game saw Rovers limited to long-ball tactics that were snuffed out by Jose Fonte time and time again. Lee Barnard had a goal disallowed for offside, but the home side seemed happy with their performance as they rode the game out.
Tranmere went into the match hoping to get their second away victory on the bounce, but it was evident to the away fans that made the five hour trip down to the south-coast that the tactics had been altered to suit the occasion. The home side were ruthless in front of goal last season, and Tranmere boss Les Parry wasn`t looking to be one of the Saints victims.
As the away side were pinned back by some cross-field passing by Richard Chaplow and Dean Hammond, Saints almost found a way through after just two minutes. Guly do Prado was named as Lamberts strike partner for the game and his through ball to the former Bristol Rovers man forced Maxime Blanchard to race back and slide in to avoid an early setback.
Blanchard continued to keep Saint`s at bay with some hard tackles on the right-side, but was outnumbered on one occasion which led to a cross finding Lambert`s head, only for him to head onto Peter Gulacsi`s crossbar.
Gulacsi was called upon to save Jason Puncheon`s shot on 15 minutes before Tranmere launched one of their first possession-based attacks of the game. Lucas Akins had spent the game tracking back, so a chance to run at the defence was taken. Cutting inside after beating two players, his powerful drive tested keeper Kelvin Davies with the White`s first shot on target.
Dale Jenning`s, who was being heavily backed by the away crowd following his wonder goal at Bristol, tried his luck from 20-yards in an effort that went just over the bar.
Tranmere had a decent spell when Paul McLaren headed over from an Aaron Cresswell corner, but of all their opportunities on goal were only glimpses in comparison to Saints'- with Puncheon and Hammond continuing to fire shots at Gulacsi. Had they have reached a corner with either of their shots Rovers would have been in trouble.
As the game approached half-time Tranmere threw bodies back in an attempt to go into the break all square, but Southampton`s goal came as a result of one of the several crosses into the Whites area. Danny Butterfield bombed forward from left-back to find an unmarked Lambert with a curling ball to give the home side a deserved lead on 43 minutes.
Tranmere came out with similar tactics, and their habit of leaving Southampton`s wide-men unmarked led to the home side passing the ball up and down the pitch as they looked for an opening. Then, with the home side`s possession over 60%, they struck.
With the game now 10 minutes into the second-half Southampton began to move the ball forward, and after a number of passes do Prado received the ball in the area. The Brazilian`s ball rolled past defenders Wood and Scott Wooton into the path of Lallana who slotted home.
Ian Thomas-Moore was brought on for Lucas Akins following the goal on 56 minutes- as was Ryan Fraughan for Arnaud Mendy minutes later- but the introduction did nothing for Rovers chances as they were left trying to prevent a third from going in.
Lee Barnard headed in before wheeling off to thank the home side for their support following allegations against him off the field, only for him to be left embarrassed as the linesman flagged for offside.
Sam Morrow was brought on for young Jennings 15 minutes from time, but failed to touch the ball once as Saint`s passed the remaining time by playing their possession football.
Tranmere: Gulacsi, Blanchard, Wootton, Wood, Cresswell, Welsh, Mendy (Fraughan 65), McLaren, Akins (Thomas-Moore 60), Showunmi, Jennings (Morrow 75). Subs not used: Collister, Cathalina, Bakayogo, Power